On February 15, 2019 a few friends and I traveled from London to Paris for a girls weekend. We woke the next day expecting to view the popular tourist spots, enjoy traditional French foods, and roam the streets of the city of love. Deciding to walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, my friend and I came across a mass of people wearing fluorescent yellow vests in the Garden in front of Invalides.
We saw the news in the earlier months, and knew that the protesters were a part of the grassroots movement named the Gilet Jaunes, who were earlier protesting the eco-tax proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron. Since most news stations no longer covered the protests, we had no inkling they would make an appearance over the weekend. Wearily observing the riot police and colorful smoke bombs being set off, we decided to walk further into a residential area and to a small cafe to wait for the roads to reopen.
On the small television in back of the cafe, local French news live broadcasted the protests. Shortly after we had left the area with the massive group of protesters, tensions rose and fights began to break out, resulting in what was likely tear gas and water cannons being utilized to disperse the crowd. As we exited the cafe to resume our walk to the Louvre, hundreds of yellow vest wearing people marched down the street. Sirens blared while protesters yelled and waved French flags in protest. As we observe the protesters marching, suddenly a protester clad in black hurled a large at a police van nearly striking us and other bystanders causing us to seek shelter inside the cafe once again. Once the streets had cleared we viewed the aftermath; melted trash cans, puddles of water from water cannons, the smell of smoke, and police sirens wailed as they followed the crowd of protesters across the city.
This was the fourth month of protests that have rocked the French capital since Macron proposed an eco-tax on fuel. Due to the increasing amount of demonstrations in France, Macron caved to the backlash and did not pass the tax. After he postponed the tax, the protests became more anti-government than anti-tax. Other, more radical, protesters branched out to attack police.
Throughout France, Gilet Jaunes continue to block roads and protest the French state, and started to protest for “Frexit,” the French exit from the European Union. The protests have recently gained negative backlash for a few anti-semitic comments from protesters, which have since been condemned by President Macron. Without a leader, the protestors’ goal is unclear. With many radicals using the yellow vests original cause as a cover for their often violent demonstrations, it can mislead the public of the real origin of the movement.
The protests have caused profound damage to the French capital, leaving torched cars and trash cans in their wake along with graffiti on popular tourist sites such as the Arc de Triomphe. Shops now board their windows, and stores like Cartier, along the Champs de Elysees, lock down at any sight of the destructive demonstrators. Protesters, police, and civilians alike have been injured from stones, tear gas, and violent behavior, but protests continue to rage on weekends.
Based on what I witnessed over my weekend in Paris, it appears that the Gilet Jaunes rebellion is far from over as long as Macron remains willing to raise taxes on French citizens. Major news networks have stopped covering the demonstrations, and do not highlight the growing amount of people who actually protest.
The yellow vest protesters are an excellent example of what happens when a government attempts to hijack citizens’ money to advance their own agenda.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.