Editor: You can also visit Liberty Nation’s photo and video coverage of the Paris riots.
The French government is considering “all options” after the third weekend of yellow vest protests – a popular movement that has degenerated into riots and clashes between an enraged public and a semi-militarized police force. Despite unrest in his own country, President Macron spent the weekend swanning around the G20 summit in Argentina – chatting to Saudi Crown Princes, telling off Putin, and generally lecturing everyone else on how best to go about their business (a pastime in which he seems to enjoy indulging on a regular basis). Upon arriving in Buenos Aires – after recovering from being forgotten at the airport – Macron threatened to cut trade ties with Brazil over the country’s talk of exiting the Paris Climate Accord, but that strict devotion to cutting emissions may prove the seed of his own destruction.
Macron arrived back in Paris to find a city on fire, with hundreds injured and even more arrested – along with two deaths in the early days of the protests. The French gilets jaunes (yellow vests) have been inflamed to civil unrest after Macron’s latest attempt at a carbon tax. Diesel prices have risen by 23% over the past year, not least due to fuel taxes imposed by in an effort to curb carbon emissions. The newest taxes, intended to be instituted on January 1, will add the equivalent of around U.S.$0.20 per gallon of gasoline and around $0.30 per gallon of diesel. To add insult to injury, diesel was pushed as an environmentally friendlier option during the early 2000s; drivers were indignant when a similar tax was suggested in the U.K., with one Daily Mail article adopting the title, “Enough to make you choke! First, we were bribed to buy diesel cars. Now they want to tax us for doing so. One furious driver says the latest price hike is an outrage.”
While only about one-third of residents in public-transport-haven Paris own a vehicle, many living in regional areas are already struggling financially and expect to be hit hard by the tax. They reacted in anger, and, as everyone knows, nobody is willing to protest quite like the French.
French Revolution 2.0?
Talk surrounding the protests have swirled around the nation’s history of revolution. “This is going to start a civil war, and we’re ready for it,” François Lebrun, a 25-year-old protester from Orléans, told reporters.
Socialist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon responded to riots by saying that, “History shows that when taxes are not accepted, that starts revolutions in France.” Meanwhile, right-wing leader Bruno Retailleau weekly publication Le Journal du Dimanche:
“After months of meticulously destroying France’s intermediary bodies, Mr. Macron now finds himself alone facing the French. And when you behave like [the Sun King] Louis XIV, you’re bound to face revolt.”
The Sun King’s excesses didn’t go down too well with the French people, who, two generations later, executed his grandson, King Louis XVI, and installed a new Republic. While the comparison to Macron seems odd, seeing that the president was democratically elected into power a mere 18 months ago, perhaps the public got a hint of his tyrannical tendencies when, shortly after his election to power, he decided he would rule from on high like Jupiter, the Roman king of gods.
A globalist place-man from the start, Macron pirouetted out of obscurity and onto the world stage, in a matter of months. A year and a half later, his approval rating had sunk to 26% even before the gilets jaunes took to the streets. So far deigning only to condemn the protestors from afar, asking his Prime Minister to talk to them, Macron may as well be saying, “Let them eat cake.”
Genuine Protest or Excuse to Riot?
During the first weekend of protests, hundreds of thousands of people wearing yellow safety vests marched on the streets (estimates are between 106,000 – 300,000). The second weekend saw 81,000 protestors across France, including 8,000 in Paris. But people have lives to lead, families to look after and jobs to go back to – especially if they’re going to have to shell out for extra fuel money soon. As witnessed by LN in London, once the peaceful majority go home, the minority of troublemakers come out of the woodwork.
Just as any mass protest can be overtaken by the visible minority, a destructive subsection has wrought violence and vandalism across Paris, in particular. Hundreds have been injured, more arrested, and three are dead. But is this truly representative of the gilets jaunes movement?
At least prior to the third – and most destructive – weekend of the protests, polling showed that 77% of the French people supported the movement. Whether that has changed following more intense property destruction and clashes with riot police remains to be seen.
Members of the government placed the blame on right-wing agitators, with interior minister Christophe Castaner blaming Euroskeptic political leader Marine LePen for encouraging violence (a charge she later denied) and saying that, “The ultra-Right is mobilised and is building barricades on the Champs-Elysées.”
According to French outlet RTL, however, many of the 42 people arrested at the scene were following leaders carrying signs bearing far-left messages and had allegedly shown up intending to cause destruction. Whoever the rioters were – probably a mix of various groups – some yellow vests at the scene have expressed regret that the movement took such a turn. Bastien, a teacher who turned up to protest told RTL:
“We went to the Champs-de-Mars, there were not many people … the decision was made to go up the Champs-Elysées but in a peaceful way. When we got there, we found out what was happening [violent clashes between protestors and police], we stayed on the side because we did not want to participate in the events. It’s a shame, it’s not at all what we want and we will remember that … And we are a large majority to think like me today.”
A middle-aged couple who had taken the train into Paris to attend the protest, said “We have just demonstrated peacefully and we get gassed … We see how we are received in Paris!” Patrick Perez, a 42-year-old demonstrator from south-west France, said, “Macron has to understand that Paris is not France.”
Thirteen regional presidents also banded together to write a letter, published in French newspaper L’Opinion, calling for the Macron’s fuel tax to be abandoned and warning that it would be a “serious mistake” to label the protests an extremist movement, rather than a representation of genuine anger and frustration on the part of French citizens. “It’s a mess because we don’t have a leader,” protestor Dan Lodi, 68, said to AFP, “You always have some idiots who come to fight, but they don’t represent us at all.”
In France, the U.K., the U.S.A., we see an elite urban class increasingly out-of-touch with the needs of regional citizens. Macron’s first priority upon arriving back in Paris from the G20 was reportedly to visit a vandalized Arc de Triomphe, showing yet again a preoccupation with the symbology of power, rather than the reality of the French people. Could this be the end of Macron’s glorious but brief time in the spotlight, or will he manage to stamp down and regain the obedience of the republic? Either way, when it comes to the carbon tax, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux is determined, “We won’t change course. We are certain of that.”