Last SaLet me say it loud and clear so there’s no ambiguity: I am sick and tired of the Yellow Vests.
Saturday, January 5, was the EIGHTH time the Yellow Vests, a populist movement named for the bright yellow jackets French drivers must have in their car in case of an accident, filled the streets of Paris and other major cities to demonstrate. About what? Initially, it was about the carbon tax which would make gas more expensive. President Macron delayed the measure. It was also about the cost of living, and President Macron responded by making some moves (among them, 100 euros additional income each month) to try to ameliorate their situation.
So what is all this about now?
That’s what I’m asking myself.
As time goes on, the number of demonstrators dwindles, for sure. But the violence is, if anything greater, more unpredictable, lightning quick, astonishing and frightening. A few examples from yesterday’s demonstration: one Yellow Vest, a professional boxer, repeatedly punched a policeman who managed to protect himself from the vicious blows with his shield; in another mind-boggling attack, some of the protestors got ahold of a construction engine and bashed in the door of the Ministry of Relations with the Parliament while the Minister, who was there, was evacuated by security guards. And we’re not even talking about the cars set on fire, the broken windows, the looting and pillaging (one fellow was caught by police after he tried to sell online three expensive Givenchy bags he had stolen during a recent demonstration).
Now here’s the kicker: the reaction to these totally reprehensible, totally illegal acts of sedition was, in general, a big ho hum. French journalists and French politicians and the majority of ordinary French people continue to sing the same old song: we mustn’t mix things up. The violence is not the fault of the innocent peace-loving Yellow Jackets but outside infiltrators. Some even say that the violence of the acts is a response to the violence of the government. Uh, that one’s lost on me.
Today on TV, I finally heard a member of Macron’s party deliver the message I have been longing to hear ever since this tomfoolery started: “This violence is insurrectional and must stop. Now.”
Too bad it’s not the majority message. Most of the pundits shrink from going this far.
To try to understand the woes of the Yellow Jackets, the government has called for a national consultation starting on January 15. It will try to involve simple citizens in determining what is wrong, where and grievances can be remedied. This is all good and well – but personally I think that these people, who have no leaders, very different demands and are being manipulated mostly by the extreme right plus the extreme left and revolutionary movements, will never have enough. Because their ultimate project is to overthrow the government.
Of course there are decent, hard-working people and people down on their luck and people who don’t have enough money to make ends meet. They deserve respect, they deserve help.
But their movement has been hijacked.
And there is no excuse for the violence that we have seen the past eight Saturdays and will see much more of as time goes on.
If I were the French Head of State, which I’m not, I would refuse to enter into any kind of negotiations until the Yellow Vests get off the streets and give them back to law-abiding citizens. Personally, I, and many people I know, have not gone out for eight Saturdays because although the Yellow Jackets say they will be demonstrating in one place, they quickly move to another (which, by the way, is illegal). My husband loves to go to the Stamp Market at the bottom of the Champs-Elysées on Saturdays. He can no longer go because the entire area is barricaded either because they have said they would demonstrate there- or because they might turn up .
Tourism is down, shops and restaurants and hotels are losing money, the damage to streets and stores and cars and monuments can be counted in billions of euros. And don’t you think it is absolutely terrifying that the demonstrators have actually approached and entered the center of power by forcing their way inside a Ministry? I do!
But never forget: in France, the right to strike is sacrosanct even when those strikers penalise all the other millions of people who are just going about their business.
Something wrong with this picture? You bet.