On Saturday, February 9, 2019, the Yellow Vest protests marked their thirteenth week of marching in the streets.
American independent journalist Ford Fischer of News2Share was on the ground in Paris, where he live-streamed the protest and witnessed things that American media consumers have essentially been shut out from.
Fischer’s footage showed working-class Frenchmen doing everything from setting cars on fire and confronting the police, to monologing about the elitist tax policies pushed out by the Macron administration. So amidst the riots, the political spin from the French government, and the foreign media silence regarding this massive social movement, what is the truth about the Yellow Vest movement?
This Isn’t a Typical Left-Right Political Issue
In a recent interview on the Remso Martinez Experience podcast, Fischer explained that the Yellow Vest movement as a whole can’t be properly categorized as being Left wing or Right wing in political terms most Americans would comprehend.
“This is like if Antifa teamed up with the Charlottesville rioters” Fischer stated, continuing that while there are some limited government, anti-tax sentiments among the movement, there is also a communist/socialist element in the form of the European Black Block, showed up with “Karl Marx flags” and other communist propaganda.
These various grassroots interest groups are primarily united on their opposition to Macron’s increased gas taxes that harm the well being of the working class, and for them that is good enough to get along for the time being.
Americans Might Want to Rethink Their Support
While many Americans right-of-center have posted photos of themselves in Yellow Vests in solidarity with the movement, there seems to be something lost in translation. While American supporters provide a cultural sympathy for the anti-taxation aspect of the movement, they seem to either ignore or not know the full extent of that anti-tax aspect of things.
Fischer stated “they don’t have a problem with socialism” per se, and a majority is fine with increased taxes on the wealthiest of income earners in order to subsidize the rest, thus simply continuing the welfare state. So from this view, the movement seems more Occupy Wall Street and less Tea Party.
Macron is Worried
Criticisms of Macron and his wife’s massive spending have been a rallying cry among the movement, who claim Macron is a puppet of the rich. In order to try and ease tensions and show that he is sympathetic to the protestors, Macron has launched a series of in-person and televised town halls, but many are saying that this attempt is a cry of desperation.
Macron’s “Great Debate” – a vast, unprecedented nationwide exercise in consulting citizens on how to fix France’s problems – is the latest attempt by the centrist president to try to bring an end to almost three months of spectacular anti-government revolt by the gilets jaunes or yellow vest movement.
Macron’s idea to run thousands of local meetings was at first likened by some critics to the ill-fated consultation exercise by King Louis XVI in 1789. The king sought to quell popular discontent but instead kickstarted the French revolution. Four years later he lost his head at the guillotine.
A Man had Their Hand Blown off
While the American public hasn’t seen much of the protests from the mainstream media, what they did see during the first few weeks of the movement was simply non-violent protests. In the last several weeks, however, property damage has increased and the number of injuries and arrests has been on the rise. An extremely graphic video was captured from this past Saturday that showed a man’s hand was blown off by an exploding smoke grenade, which no one as of now can determine if it was launched by a cop or by a protestor. This level of violence and animosity seems to increase the longer this movement continues and the government still doesn’t make any concessions.
It’s Spreading Across Europe
In the early stages of the movement, the populist connection reached across the pond to England, where Brits took the concept of the Yellow Vest protests and adopted it into more of a pro-Brexit, anti-EU movement. Unlike the protests in France, the British have seemed to take a break from hitting the streets, but the increase in violence over in France might encourage them to grab their vests once again.