The recent protests by French citizens can be described as the most violent the country has ever witnessed since the May 1968 protest.
The protests which has been on for more than a year now is targeted at French’s President, Emmanuel Macron whom many accuse of favoring the rich with his policies.
On Saturday 18 January 2020, the protesters returned to the street in what has become the longest anti-government protest in years following series of protests that has rocked the country, holding every Saturday since November 2018.
The recent spate of protests is triggered by government’s pension reforms. And this time around, the transport unions have joined the yellow vest.
The protesters say the pension reforms will make people work longer and have their pensions reduced when they retire.
Let’s take a look at some pertinent issues you need to know.
1. Who are the (Yellow vest) protesters?
They are anti-government protesters called ‘Mouvement des gilets jaunes” which translates to “Yellow vest movement”
The yellow vest identity came as a result of government’s insistence on drivers having a yellow vest in their cars or wear them in emergencies. It was adopted as the symbol of the protesters.
Following an online petition in May 2018 which had almost a million signatories, the movement began in October 2018.
The Protest officially commenced on 17 November 2018 and has lasted till now.
It started from Paris and soon, they spread across many other provinces.
2. Why are they protesting?
They want economic justice as president of France, Emmanuel Macron has been accused of running an elitist government.
The protests began as a result of government’s announcement of policies aimed at increasing the price of crude oil and fuel taxes.
The protesters, many of whom are people from the rural areas who have to drive long distances, said they couldn’t afford to pay that much.
In addition, other government’s policies on labor reforms, slash of wealth tax, austerity measures put in place, globalization and more recently, government’s pension reforms.
All of these increased the protesters believe of favoritism by President Macron.
3. What are their demands?
The yellow vest protesters have in the past, demanded that the government should increase minimum wage; remove the austerity measures it placed; improve the standard of living of its citizens; improved government services in rural areas; transparency in government and an amendment of the country’s constitution to permit citizens decide some constitutional matters by referendum.
4. What have they achieved so far?
The next question that comes to mind is if they have been able to achieved any of these demands?
Yes. In response, the French government made some concessions.
One of which was cancellation of the proposed hike in fuel price in December 2018 which was to take effect in 2019.
Also, the government agreed to lift tax paid on overtime and end-of-year bonuses.
Others are, reduction of fuel price, postponement of date for new price of electricity tariff and a €100 minimum wage increment.
However, demands concerning the pension reforms are yet to be complied with.
The protests has been marred by pockets of violence, vandalism, civil disobedience and police brutality.
So far, 11 lost their lives, either directly or indirectly connected with the protests.
Presently, almost 2000 protesters have been injured and about same number with police officers.
The economy too has been significantly affected by the wave of protests as a result of vandalism, looting, blockage of roads and decline in sales of goods especially in supermarkets.
A loss of more than €600 million has been estimated.
In conclusion, the protests may continue as Macron remains president and the majority of people feel his policies are anti-people.