PARIS, May 11 -- French police fired tear gas in skirmishes with masked demonstrators in Lyon and Nantes on Saturday, the 26th straight weekend of “yellow vest” protests against President Emmanuel Macron and his economic reform agenda.
In Nantes, black-hooded demonstrators on the fringes of a largely peaceful protest hurled bottles and smashed shop windows, while in Lyon tear gas swirled as police tried to funnel protesters away from the central Place Bellecour. Six months after the grassroot rebellion erupted over the high cost of living and Macron’s perceived indifference towards the plight of working class France, the movement is losing momentum. Saturday’s apparently low turnout nationwide will be a relief to Macron, little more than two weeks out from European elections. The far-right, polling neck-and-neck with Macron’s party, is billing the vote as a referendum on his first two years in office. The prolonged unrest has forced the president into costly policy concessions and put the brakes on his reform timetable, including an overhaul of the pension system this year.
PARIS, May 4 -- Anti-government protesters marched in France on Saturday for a 25th straight week, and several dozen demonstrated at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport to denounce privatization plans.
The crowds at the yellow vest protests in Paris appeared thin as they got underway - in contrast to the thousands who joined the annual May Day march Wednesday, organized by labor unions, that was marked by violence. Security was visibly lighter than for the May Day march. There were no reports of violence. Demonstrations were also held in cities around France, including Nice and Marseille, the Alpine town of Chambery and in Lyon, where ecologists and yellow vest protesters joined forces. The leaderless yellow vest movement sprang up in mid-November to oppose policies of President Emmanuel Macron seen as favoring the rich. Macron responded last month with measures including tax cuts and plans to close France's elite school for top civil servants, while defending his pro-business policies. Three lists of yellow vest candidates are running in a May 26 election for France's representatives to the European Union parliament.
PARIS, April 28 -- Yellow vest protests are taking place in France's main cities for the 24th consecutive week to challenge economic policies that President Emmanuel Macron stood by while unveiling measures intended to quell the anti-government movement.
In Paris, a few thousand people participated in two peaceful demonstrations on Saturday. Veterans of the protests, which have been running for six months now, led off the Paris march, organised by the militant CGT union. But in a new development, many senior figures from the radical left marched with them, including Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of France Unbowed and one of Macron's most vocal critics. In the eastern city of Strasbourg, near the German border, police used tear gas to stop a crowd heading toward the European Parliament building. In his response to the movement, Macron announced tax cuts for middle-class workers and plans to close France's elite college for top civil servants and politicians. But he said he would keep pushing pro-business policies opposed by protesters who criticise Macron for his alleged favouring of the wealthy and are demanding wage and pension increases.
Disappointed by Macron's plans
Thierry-Paul Valette, the founder of a group called Yellow Vests Citizens and one of the organisers of the movement, said on Friday that Emmanuel Macron failed to deliver on the protesters demands. "We have not received satisfaction, therefore, we will continue the movement," Valette said.
Valette also criticised Macron's personality labelling him as "brutal" and "stubborn."
'Too little, too late'
For many within the yellow vest movement, Macron's reforms were simply too little, too late. In Aubagne near Marseille, a dozen or so protesters angrily rejected his speech, denouncing the reforms as "stupid trivial measures" which they said showed he had "not listened to the people's demands". "He's taking us for idiots, it's a load of crap," fumed Jean-Luc, a shopkeeper who said he had "had enough of seeing elderly people rummaging through dustbins". And he was also fed up "with rich people thinking they could teach (the protesters) a lesson".
Priscillia Ludosky, a key figure in the movement, simply tweeted the dates of the next seven Saturdays, each marked with the word: "demo". In saying he would continue with his reform programme and even step up the pace, Macron had "stuck his fingers up at the yellow vests" said Sebastian Chenu, spokesman for the far-right National Rally. Plans to increase diesel prices and raise taxes on pensions provided the spark that initially triggered the protests in rural France in November, which quickly ballooned into a full-scale anti-government rebellion. A poll carried out for Le Figaro newspaper found that 63 percent of people found Macron unconvincing and 80 percent thought the "yellow vest" protests would continue.
PARIS, April 22 -- The massive, self-organised social movement known as the Yellow Vests held its second nationwide “Assembly of Assemblies” earlier this month.
Hundreds of activist groups from all over France each chose two delegates – one woman, one man – to gather in the port city of St. Nazaire. Local Yellow Vests hosted 700 delegates at the St. Nazaire “House of the People.” The three-day series of meetings and working groups went off without a hitch in an atmosphere of good-fellowship. A sign on the wall proclaimed, “No one has the solution, but everybody has a piece of it.” Their project – mobilise their “collective intelligence” to reorganise, strategise, and prolong their struggle. Their aim – achieve the immediate goals of liveable wages and retirements, restoration of social benefits and public services. Tax the rich and end fiscal fraud to pay for preserving the environment. And, most ambitious of all, reinvent democracy in the process. Their Declaration ends with the phrase, “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I often wonder if they know who coined it.
Yellow and Green Unite and Fight
Particular attention was paid to the issue of the environment, reaffirming the popular slogan, “End of the week. End of the world. Same logic, same struggle.” It rhymes in French. The Assembly called on people to “take up a conflictual stance against the present system in order to create, together, a new ecological, popular social movement”. This shows growth from the original Yellow Vest uprising, which began as a protest against a hike in taxes on diesel fuel imposed in the name of “saving the environment.” Less well known is that only 17 percent of that tax was earmarked for the environment.
In any case, French president Emmanuel Macron rescinded it in an early attempt to pacify the movement. Since then, the Yellow Vests have tentatively converged with environmental groups. Many poor and working class Yellow Vests can’t help seeing them as bourgeois on bicycles unwilling to struggle directly against the establishment. So their call for unity is also a challenge to the environmental movement – “Join us in the struggle for social equality and be ready to fight the whole system.” Brilliant! Who said an unstructured autonomous movement of ordinary, not well-educated people, could not come up with strategies and tactics? “No one has the solution, but everybody has a piece of it.” This was the basis of direct democracy in Athens, from which the Yellow Vests have also borrowed the idea of choosing representatives by lot.
The Assembly of Assemblies reaffirmed the Yellow Vest founding principle of keeping clear of political parties. Also of leaders. To my mind this is genius. Every popular mass movement I have participated in over the past 60 years has been co-opted by the establishment or crushed. Leaders set up an office, try to raise money and gain access to power, end up compromising. They treat rank and file activists like a mailing list and the power and dynamic of the mass movement melts away. Instinctively, the Yellow Vests seem to have assimilated the profound criticism of representative democracy that goes back to the 18th century and was applied during the 1871 Paris Commune. There delegates were given limited mandates, subject to instant recall, regularly rotated, and paid at workers’ wages. The Communards also called on other cities to rise and link up as a federation. This is the Yellow Vests’ modus operandi.
This critique of representation explains the Assembly’s attitude toward upcoming elections for the European Parliament. Fear of being manipulated for political purposes is strong. Last month Yellow Vests at a Paris demonstration recognised a Yellow Vest who had just declared her candidacy, apparently in the name of the Yellow Vests. They were furious and yelled at her until she withdrew, shaken. Ugly, but a necessary example to anyone else who would rather be a politician than a Yellow Vest. The Assembly, far from calling for a Frexit, reached out to social movements in the other countries of the European Union in a call to come together and struggle against its neoliberal policies.
The Assembly saw no point in voting in this sham election. As everyone knows, the European Parliament has no power or even visibility. Moreover, it limits the deficit spending of its member countries, thus making it illegal for France to finance the social services and environmental reconstruction people are demanding.
PARIS, April 20 -- Yellow Vests Protesters Urge Regions to Join Rallies in Paris.
Saturday’s demonstration marks the 23rd consecutive week of protests that have engulfed the country since mid-November. Last Saturday, some thirty thousand protesters took part in the protests. The protesters have taken to social media to mobilise their supporters from France's regions to gather for new protests dubbed "Ultimatum 2". Representatives of the movement in Normandy have already responded to the call. The demonstrators intend to make Paris the capital of this week's protests. The rally's main venue has so far been kept secret.
Another rally is expected to take place near the Basilica of Saint Denis in the northern district of the capital. The demonstrators seek to march to the square Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad and wrap up their procession at the Quai Saint-Bernard embankment. The protesters, however, have been prohibited from staging demonstrations in the vicinity of the Notre Dame de Paris by order of the city's police. According to the Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, some sixty thousand policemen and gendarmes will be dispatched to keep order in the streets.
More demonstrations are expected to take place in regional centres including Toulouse, Montpelier, and Bordeaux. Nevertheless, heads of several departments, including Loire-Atlantique and Rhône, have cautioned against protests not coordinated with the local authorities. The Yellow Vests rallies have been ongoing in the country since mid-November. In March, rioters ravaged much of the Champs-Élysées during the previous "Ultimatum".
PARIS, April 14 -- France's 'yellow vests' are back in the street, hoping to make a comeback after participation dropped to its lowest level since the start of the movement last weekend.
The Interior Ministry counted 22,300 protesters at the last of the now weekly protests on April 6. Since then, the government has presented the findings of the "Great Debate" - the nationwide listening exercise organized to quell the anger of the "yellow vests" - though President Emmanuel Macron has yet to make any policy announcements on the back of the results.This week, the new "anti-hooligan" law came into effect which includes new crimes such as covering one's face during demonstrations without a legitimate motive, though the constitutional council struck down provisions for banning individuals from protests.
In the French city of Toulouse, Police forces have clashed with protesters and used flash balls and tear gas against rock-throwing protesters. Several people got injured in the clashes. The government has repeatedly denounced the actions of violent thugs who they say have infiltrated the movement and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner described the new law on Twitter as one that "protects the French from insecurity and violence" and "protects our institutions and our liberties." The rallies started in mid-November to protest against Macron’s planned fuel price hikes, but they snowballed into a national movement, rejecting Macron's policies and his leadership.
PARIS, April 6 -- Protesters from the yellow vest movement are taking to the streets of France for a 21st straight weekend, with hundreds gathered for a march across Paris, one of numerous protests around the country.
Paris police have fine-tuned their strategy of being more mobile and proactive to counter eventual violence since the first Saturday of protests Nov. 17. The Champs-Elysees avenue is off-limits to protesters after it was hit by rioting last month. Hundreds gathered in Rouen, in Normandy, a past flashpoint, and hundreds more in eastern Paris at the Place de la Republique, the start of a march to the business district on the capital’s western edge.
The yellow vest movement, demanding social and economic justice, has attracted dwindling crowds but still remains a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron.
PARIS, March 30 -- French yellow vest protesters were rallying Saturday to support an activist injured in a confrontation with police and show they remain mobilized against the government's economic policies.
The demonstrators are undeterred by protest bans or repeated injuries in 20 weeks of demonstrations. So they're marching again Saturday in Paris, Bordeaux, and other cities to keep pressing President Emmanuel Macron to do more to help the working classes, redesign French politics — or step down altogether. They're also showing solidarity with Genevieve Legay, a 73-year-old anti-globalization activist who suffered a head injury in the southern city of Nice last weekend. The Nice prosecutor said a police officer pushed her down. "We are all Genevieve!" read an online appeal for Saturday's protests.
In Paris, thousands of yellow vests started marching from the Gare de l'Est, in the north of the city center. They were heading south to weave through the Left Bank and past the Eiffel Tower. The French capital was placed under high security. Protests were banned around the Champs-Elysees, scene of recent rioting. Audrey Bayart, who came from northern France for the protest, said Legay's case shows the government's contempt toward protesters, especially after Macron told a newspaper the elderly woman should have had the "wisdom" not to join the Nice protest. "After a while, you have to respect people and not tell them 'you are fragile and you stay at home' ... Everybody has things to say, why are we trying to shut them up? That is not democracy," she said.
The movement has appeared to lose support in recent weeks, drawing significantly smaller crowds than at its beginning in November, when hundreds of thousands of people mobilized across France, initially to oppose fuel tax hikes, before expanding into a broader rejection of Macron's economic policies. The government is expected to announce next month a new batch of measures as a result of a "great debate" launched by Macron so that ordinary French people can express their views on the country's economic and democratic issues.
PARIS, March 23 -- French authorities early on Saturday deployed its military on the streets of Paris in order to assist police as the country prepares for fresh ' Yellow Vest' protests.
Paris military governor, General Bruno Leray, is saying that the military can go as far as opening fire if their lives or the lives of people they defend are threatened. However, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed that the soldiers would not be involved in keeping public order. Their soldiers mission is to fight against terrorism and to protect vulnerable sites, this is for police men and military police to get to the operational ground. In our country, the army is not in any way in charge of public order or law enforcement," Macron was quoted as saying. The decision to deploy the army was undertaken to curb the violence and rampages caused last week when a large group of masked protestors looted and vandalised shops and restaurants located along the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, as the ‘YellowVests’ protests entered the 18th consecutive weekend. The French police have also imposed a ban on protests across the Champs-Elysees to ensure the law and order in the French capital. In addition, French government's spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, noted that the troops deployed under “Operation Sentinelle” -- an anti-terror operation, patrolled streets and protected airports, train stations, places of worship and other sites. During last week’s protests, the French police had put barricades around the Champs-Elysees and resorted to firing tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. The anti-government protests had previously forced President Emmanuel Macron to scrap the proposed hike in fuel prices. The government introduced a string of initiatives, including increasing the minimum wage by 100 euros a month, as part of 'economic and social emergency plan' unveiled in December last year. However, the protesters have continued their agitations regardless, demanding 20 per cent hike in minimum wages, equal pay for men and women, tax reform, development of public services and just environmental reforms.
PARIS, March 16 -- Yellow vest protests in the French capital, which are ongoing for the eighteenth consecutive weekend, have evolved into serious clashes between activists and police, a Sputnik correspondent reported on Saturday.
As many as 31 people have been detained so far, according to media reports. Earlier in the day, French police fired tear gas against protesters as yellow vest rallies continue for the eighteenth consecutive weekend in the country's capital, a Sputnik correspondent reported. Several thousands of protesters are currently marching on the streets stretching from the Place Charles de Gaulle. They seem to be in a more aggressive mood than during several previous demonstrations.
As yellow vest movement supporters, who started to gather at the Place Charles de Gaulle before dawn, continue their march across Paris, some of them are setting plastic trash cans on fire, destroying municipal electric scooters and exploding fireworks. Protesters are singing songs about a crowd heading to French President Emmanuel Macron's residency in the Elysee Palace — and this is exactly where the organizers of the rally want them to come from different parts of the city. Police have taken measures to ensure security, with gendarmes limiting the movement on Champs-Elysees. A water cannon and two armored vehicles have been deployed to downtown Paris.
The wave of protests started in France in mid-November last year. While the government abandoned its plans to raise fuel taxes, which triggered the rallies in the first place, and introduced other measures to improve the country's socioeconomic situation, protesters continue to take to the streets across France every weekend. Yellow vest protests have been marked with violent clashes between activists and security forces.