| 8 December 2021, Wednesday |

France’s yellow vests prepare to take to streets amid 3rd year of protests

Protesters are preparing to take to the streets of France again on Saturday, as the Yellow Vest protests that shook the country, enter their third year,
The yellow vest protests in France began on Nov. 17, 2018, in response to fuel hikes and bad economic conditions. Over time, these demonstrations turned into a revolt amid anger against the administration of President Emmanuel Macron, quickly making their way to global headlines.
Starting with nearly 300,000 people in Paris, the protests devolved into violence on a scale unprecedented in recent years. The streets of Paris and various other cities witnessed clashes between police and protesters, amid scenes of burning vehicles and various other items.
Especially in the first two years of the demonstrations, French police violence against protesters and journalists occurred on numerous occasions.
The yellow vests were not able to hold demonstrations last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but weekly Saturday protests gathered in recent months though participation was scant despite wide use of social media.
According to a survey released on Wednesday, 40% of respondents said they felt close to the yellow vest movement. In the first months of the demonstrations, this rate was 80%.
However, it was found that the demonstrations raised awareness of economic difficulties faced by low- and middle-income people.
Christian Le Bart, researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and author of the book, The little sociology of yellow vests, emphasized that the initial reasons for the yellow vest protests were still valid.
Purchasing power has decreased further as living and economic conditions stagnate, Le Bart warned, adding that the unfulfillment of the yellow vests’ demands could precipitate into a new movement.
Jerome Rodrigues, one of the yellow vests’ leaders, invited French people to participate in demonstrations across the country on Saturday.
Rodrigues, who was injured in the eye due to rubber bullet fired by police, pointed out that the yellow vest movement 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, underlining that the economic problems faced by the French are no longer limited to fuel prices.
He noted that in three years, the government gave workers a one-time bonus in response to their demands, adding that some people could not attend Saturday’s protests because of the economic difficulties they face.
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
Security forces in France have deployed tear gas and rubber bullets against the protesters in the past and have been reported to target demonstrators and journalists at the protests, often causing injury.
According to a study by the website mediapart and journalist David Dufresne, 770 people, including 127 journalists, were injured, while five people had to have one of their hands amputated and 30 people lost their eyes due to police violence.
During the demonstrations, a total of 11 people died as freedom of the press was also violated 194 times by police.
Initially falling silent in the face of the protests, the UN later called on French authorities to engage in dialogue and open an investigation into allegations of disproportionate force as the number of protesters injured by police violence increased.
The EU, which has reacted quickly to protests held in many other countries and issued calls for calm, also ignored the French police violence.
Having assumed the role of defender of democracy, freedom of expression and human rights Europe continues to remain silent against French police violence.
In the first year of the protests, the country’s economy was also severely harmed.
Small businesses in the areas where the demonstrations reportedly lost between 20% and 30% of revenues.
Shopping malls lost €2 billion ($2.26 billion), while insurance companies that compensated damaged shops, offices, and vehicles suffered €217 million in losses, as did the food sector by about €13 billion.
The cost of the measures taken by President Macron and his administration in response to the demands of the yellow vests was calculated to be €17 billion.
In addition, the sum of wages paid to the police and gendarmerie working overtime due to the demonstrations was determined to be €46 million. Damaged road radars during the demonstrations also racked up costs of €71 million.
Due to the damage suffered by businesses during the protests, 75,000 people became unemployed.
The demonstrations 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 by between 5% and 10 %.