Socialist Worker

French cops crack down on ‘Yellow Vest’ protests

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2632

ellow Vests protesters block the road at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Yellow Vests protesters block the road at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (Pic: Patrice Gravoin)


Thousands of French “Yellow Vest” protesters were met by police assaults, riot cop attacks and tear gas in Paris last Saturday.

The authorities had banned demonstrators from gathering in certain parts of the capital. But they defied the orders.They were met with state violence designed to crush a movement that threatens to engulf president Emmanuel Macron.

The protesters are focusing a feeling of utter disillusion with the present set-up.

As one person on a blockade in Cadenet in south east France put it, “We can’t take it any longer.

“We are stifled, we the little people, the toothless, the ones who are called lazy but who work so hard.”

The movement, named after the hi-vis jackets people are required to keep in their cars, exploded into view a week earlier.

Nearly 300,000 people ­blockaded motorways, roundabouts and toll booths last week. There were mass arrests and two protesters were killed.

The original demands were against a rise in the price of diesel and petrol.

Public transport is poor in most of France, and huge numbers of drive to work, particularly in rural areas.

The rise was particularly resented because it came after the top 1 percent saw tax cuts that will see their incomes rise by 6 percent next year.

A popular slogan was, “We’re paying at the pumps to fund the rich.”

Early support for the Yellow Vests came from the mainstream right and the fascists of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally—the renamed National Front).

But as the protests happened they took on a wider opposition to Macron’s attacks on working class people.

Amazon workers on strike at Lauwin-Planque in the north of France on Friday join with “Yellow Vest” protesters to decide which vehicles are allowed through

Amazon workers on strike at Lauwin-Planque in the north of France on Friday join with “Yellow Vest” protesters to decide which vehicles are allowed through (Pic: Arnaud Déthée)


There have been examples of sexist and racist behaviour at some blockades. But there was clear opposition to them from most protesters.

The Yellow Vests coordinators said, “It is important that every person who wishes to participate in this movement be able to do so, no matter their skin colour, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender or religion.

“The Yellow Vests are not the sheep of nationalists, fascists and other extremist movements.Nor is our movement ­represented by any party or union.”

There are signs of ­organised workers’ support for the movement.

According to the La Voix Du Nord website, some striking Amazon workers at Lauwin-Planque in the north of France joined with Yellow Vest protesters last Friday.

During a strike at the Total oil refinery in La Mede, Yellow Vests and 150 strikers jointly controlled the flow of traffic, sometimes apart, sometimes together.

Macron is in deep trouble, and signalling he is going to make concessions.

The main union federation, the CGT, has called a day of ­demonstrations across France for Saturday.

A very big march, mainly of women, saw tens of thousands march against sexism and sexual violence last Saturday. And secondary school students were set to walk out on Friday.

Bringing the struggles together around left wing politics is the key to victory.


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