France’s yellow vests prepare to take to the streets amid third year of protests
As the demonstrations of the yellow vests that shook France are entering their third year, the demonstrators are preparing to take to the streets on Saturday.
The yellow vests protests in France began on November 17, 2018, in response to fuel increases and poor economic conditions. Over time, these protests have turned into revolt amid anger at the administration of President Emmanuel Macron, quickly making their way to world headlines.
Starting from nearly 300,000 people in Paris, the protests have degenerated into violence of an unprecedented scale in recent years. The streets of Paris and various other cities have witnessed clashes between police and protesters, amid scenes of burning vehicles and various other objects.
Especially in the first two years of the protests, French police violence against protesters and journalists occurred on numerous occasions.
The yellow vests were unable to stage protests last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but weekly Saturday protests have rallied in recent months, although turnout has been low despite extensive use of social media.
According to a poll released on Wednesday, 40% of those polled said they felt close to the yellow vests movement. In the first months of the protests, this rate was 80%.
However, it was found that the protests raised awareness of the economic hardships faced by low and middle income people.
Christian Le Bart, researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research and author of the book, The little sociology of yellow vests, stressed that the initial reasons for the protests of the yellow vests were still valid.
Purchasing power has declined further as living and economic conditions stagnate, Le Bart warned, adding that dissatisfaction with yellow vests’ claims could precipitate a new movement.
Jérôme Rodrigues, one of the leaders of the yellow vests, invited the French to participate in demonstrations across the country on Saturday.
Rodrigues, who sustained eye injuries from a rubber bullet fired by police, pointed out that the yellow vests movement had erupted due to an increase in fuel prices, adding that prices were 20 % higher today than they were in 2018.
Thus, people need to take to the streets more, he said, stressing that the economic problems facing the French are no longer limited to fuel prices.
He noted that in three years the government had given workers a one-time bonus in response to their demands, adding that some people were unable to attend Saturday’s protests due to the economic hardship they faced.
Meanwhile, businessman Fabrice Grimal, teacher Clara Egger, driver Eric Drouet and activist Jacline Mouraud, who support the yellow vests, have announced their candidacy for the 2022 presidential election.
– Police violence
French security forces have previously fired tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters and reportedly targeted protesters and journalists during protests, often causing injuries.
According to a study by the mediapart site and journalist David Dufresne, 770 people, including 127 journalists, were injured, while five people had to have their hands amputated and 30 people lost their sight due to police violence.
During the protests, a total of 11 people died, with press freedom also being violated 194 times by police.
– Human rights defender Europe remains silent
At first, shutting up in the face of the protests, the UN then called on the French authorities to engage in dialogue and open an investigation into the allegations of disproportionate force as the number of protesters injured by police violence increased.
The EU, which reacted swiftly to protests in many other countries and called for calm, also ignored the French police violence.
After having assumed the role of defender of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights, Europe continues to remain silent in the face of French police violence.
– Economic damage from demonstrations
In the first year of the protests, the country’s economy was also severely affected.
Small businesses in areas where protests have reportedly lost between 20% and 30% of their income.
Shopping centers lost 2 billion euros ($ 2.26 billion), while insurance companies that compensated damaged stores, offices and vehicles suffered losses of 217 million euros, as did the food sector of about 13 billion euros.
The cost of the measures taken by President Macron and his administration in response to the demands of the yellow vests has been estimated at 17 billion euros.
In addition, the amount of salaries paid to police and gendarmes working overtime because of the demonstrations was estimated at 46 million euros. Road cameras damaged during the protests also cost € 71 million.
As a result of the damage suffered by businesses during the protests, 75,000 people were left unemployed.
The protests negatively affected not only the economy but also tourism in the city of Paris. In the first months of the protests, international flights to the city fell 5-10%.
* Written by Seda Sevencan