The ‘gilet jaunes’ or yellow vest protestors are known by that name due to the high-visibility vests that they have been sporting during the protests to mark their stance against the increase in diesel prices.
The protests led by the working class, the retired pensioners as well as the youth of France have brought life to a standstill in the country. What started as a movement against increasing tax on diesel turned into a full-fledged movement against other aspects such as pension, increased costs of housing and demands to increase the current living wage. It is remarkedly resonant of the French Revolution – the bourgeoisie against the monarchy, but in this case, the government.
The protests began with merely a few social media posts that went viral, the movement without any leader, union or political party involved turned into a large-scale protests with burning cars, breaking shop windows, defacing the city’s monuments and has been dubbed an ‘economic catastrophe’ for France.
Loretta Rodrigues, an international student in Paris, details how the protests have become a major setback to her academic performance. “It is terrible for us as the protestors often block roads and either I am always late to college or I do not get there most of the time. They would stop buses in the middle of the road and tell us to get off and take a train. At that point, you feel threatened and you just quietly agree. It gets even worse during the weekends, any hope to go anywhere remains just that, a hope.”
— Tesa Arcilla (@TesaArcilla) December 8, 2018
Micheal Sweetman, a French resident studying in the UK, felt that the protests are not really benefiting anyone in France. He said: “Everyone is protesting about fuel prices going up and the minimum wage being too low but then you have protestors who do not care about that and just wish to riot and cause chaos.”
“It affects students in two ways, there are the students who do not want to be involved in the protests and just want to go to school but they cannot because the others are blocking the roads so no public transport, cars or trucks can get past then you have the other half of students who are protesting because the government has recently changed the way the whole education system works and the students are not happy about it. My local hometown is affected, people are setting up camps and roundabouts and blocking them off, setting cars on fire and robbing stores. It is chaos and France is going into a crisis.”
Credit: Alicia Phanwar
The French President, Emmanuel Macron after having been remarkably silent during the crisis, has finally addressed the protests and agreed to some of the demands by agreeing to increase the living wage to the tune of a 100 euros, the tax on pension as well as fuel will be removed. However, he refused to impose a ‘wealth tax’ on the grounds that “we need to create jobs”. With his approval ratings only at 29 per cent, some may say that the President’s reforms might be too little, too late.