Riots in France

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Riots in France

"Gilets Jaunes" dangerous anti-government protests

Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images

"Gilets Jaunes" dangerous anti-government protests

Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images

Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images

"Gilets Jaunes" dangerous anti-government protests

Hannah Vidu

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The first week of December is usually the beginning of a joyful season that brings people together; however, in France it was time plagued by chaos, destruction and death. The people of France have led protests that turned violent, against Emmanuel Macron, the president of France.

 

The French government has recently imposed a hydrocarbon tax on its people. The government was  planning on raising the cost of diesel from 7.6 cents (per liter) up by at least 3.9 cents. This is the first of many new changes in France as they push for cleaner cars and energy in order to stop global warming. This could encourage people to take public transportation (and save money) but for the people in smaller towns, where there is no public transportation, they will have to pay a lot more than they are used to paying.

 

Residents of France do not want this tax because they think it is asking for too much money. The people protesting are called the Gilets Jaunes (“yellow vests” in English) and they have been protesting since the middle of November. French law requires that people have a yellow vest in your car in case of an emergency, which is what is also worn in the protests. Some of these protests have consisted of 138,000 protesters.

 

Ever since President Emmanuel Macron’s inauguration in May of 2017, France has seen several changes. Emmanuel Macron came into office with many big ideas and changes for France. For example, the baccalaureate test in France is a required test for high school students in order to graduate high school. It is very similar to the SATs in America, in which your grade affects the college you get into. They government was considering gutting this system, which is causing a lot of high schoolers and young adults to protest as well.

For Macon’s New Year’s address, he decided to talk about the yellow vest protesters. He made it very clear that there will be no compromise when it comes to the yellow vests and the fuel increase because of their behavior. He then went on to claim that the protesters were “speaking for a hateful mob.”

 

Eric Drouet, 33, is considered to be the leader of this anti-government movement. He was arrested on December 22nd for a wooden stick during one of these protest, which is a category D weapon in France. His lawyer said he only happened to have this in his bag, and did not intend on using it. The government claims this was the only reason for his arrest, but Drouet believes it was politically motivated. On January 2nd, he was arrested for organizing an undeclared protest, which he claims he did not attend but instead was meeting his friends in France.

 

A large majority of the protests have been peaceful demonstrations, but some have turned dangerous. On the first weekend of December, over 400 people who participated in the protests were arrested because of their violence.

 

A lot of the violent riots are caused by people from extremist right and left parties. They defaced the Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, causing a total damage of $3.4 million. Some of the members even sent death threats to other members who tried to talk with the government in order to negotiate. Since the protests have started, hundreds have been injured. During one protest in December, the police fired tear gas and water cannons into a crowd of people who were burning cars.

 

However, not all of the protests are violent. Some of the peaceful protests consisted of road blockades and have proved to be effective.

 

The government has decided to cancel the hydrocarbon tax, but the protests haven’t stopped because not all of the demands have been met. They are asking for many things, including for Macron to resign and for the minimum wage to be increased. They also want to increase pension and cut politicians salaries. Macron’s approval rating is falling, and many believe that his chance of reelection in 2022 is unlikely.

 

The protests started as a movement against the diesel tax, but are now becoming an anti-government protest, especially against the French president, Emmanuel Macron.  These people are clearly not happy with the direction of the government in France and many want to impeach the current president.

 

This could also be a warning sign to other countries. Enforcing enormous taxes have clearly angered the citizens of France, and many countries can learn not to do what France has done.

 

According to a poll done by Harris-Interactive, 72% of the residents in France support the yellow vests.

 

I interviewed Cristian Osan, age 37, who lives in Romorantin Lanthenay, France. He moved six  years ago from Romania and has worked there as a dentist ever since.

 

Osan says that the taxes have been raised by 38% through 2017-2018. In the past, France has had high taxes on fossil fuels in order to get people to switch to clean energy. He did not participate in the protests but thinks they are necessary.

 

Cristian Osan also thinks that the government should focus on raising the minimum wage. He says these protest are not unusual in France. In fact, civil unrest has been very common in France over the past few centuries.

 

To this day, the protests continue, and there seems to be no end until both sides come to compromise.

 

Bibliography:

 

“Emmanuel Macron Wants to Change the Beloved Baccalauréat.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 8 Feb. 2018, www.economist.com/europe/2018/02/08/emmanuel-macron-wants-to-change-the-beloved-baccalaureat.

“France Fuel Protests: Who Are the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Vests)?” BBC News, BBC, 6 Dec. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46424267.

“France Protests: What Is Happening? – CBBC Newsround.” BBC, BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/46427610.

“French Gilets Jaunes: Who Is Protest Leader Eric Drouet?” BBC News, BBC, 3 Jan. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46745656.

“Les ‘Gilets Jaunes’ : Quelle Perception De La Part Des Français Au Lendemain De La Manifestation Du 1er Décembre Sur Les Champs-Élysées ?” France, harris-interactive.fr/opinion_polls/les-gilets-jaunes-quelle-perception-de-la-part-des-francais-au-lendemain-de-la-manifestation-du-1er-decembre-sur-les-champs-elysees/.