The Yellow Vests protests left their mark on the political and social life of France for the 25 week as thousands gathered against president Emmanuel Macron. In Paris, a section of the demonstrators gathered at the Charles de Gaulle airport to protest its impending privatization. According to reports, tens of thousands of people protested in cities across the country, including Nice, Marseille and Lyon, where environmentalists also joined the march.
In Metz, thousands of Yellow Vests and environmentalists marched to the venue of a meeting of environment ministers of the G7 countries, which began on May 5. Protesters have called for a “strong proposal”, around the theme “Fight against inequalities through the protection of biodiversity and climate”, to tackle climate change and offer “a true counter-summit” with “a unitary voice”, ahead of the G7 summit scheduled to take place in Biarritz in August.
The latest protests come after the massive crackdown on protesters on May 1. On International Workers’ Day, more than 300,000 people joined the demonstrations, answering the call of various trade unions and the yellow vests. Around 7,500 security personnel were deployed. A large number of protesters participated in the marches wearing masks, in defiance of the anti-riot legislation which prohibits people from covering their faces while demonstrating. The French Communist Party (PCF), in a statement, condemned the police crackdown on the May Day demonstrations.
On Sunday, prominent artists and intellectuals denounced government attempts to cast the protesters as violent hoodlums. In the ‘We Are Not Fooled’ Manifesto, they said, “…the most threatening violence is the economic and social one … the violence marking bodies and minds of those who go to work to survive.”
The Yellow Vests have criticized Macron’s latest promises on tax cuts and on increase in pensions as empty rhetoric. They have also declared a third list of candidates, called “Rassemblement des Gilets jaunes citoyens” (Rally of the citizen yellow vests), for the European Parliament elections scheduled for May 26.
The Yellow Vests movement began on November 17, 2018, after the Macron-led government announced a hike in fuel taxes, purportedly to combat climate change. This decision triggered the anger of the masses against all the anti-poor reforms that Macron has passed since taking office. In the face of huge mobilizations, the government was forced to roll back the tax hike. In addition, Macron also announced tax cuts for pensioners and asked bosses to give bonuses to their workers. But these small overtures failed to placate the anger of the working and lower middle classes.