For nearly six months now, protest movement “the yellow vests” (les gilets jaunes) has been taking to the streets in Paris, throughout France, and into other European countries. Through both peaceful and violent means, they have rallied against the unpopular regime of French president Emmanuel Macron.
The government has retaliated, killing at least 15 total civilians (12 in France, three in Belgium). They also have arrested and injured thousands. However, the protest group has gotten the French government to make a number of concessions. After peaking at a 72% approval rate, twice that of Macron, they have pressured the government to remove an infamous gas tax hike and promise an increase to the minimum wage. But the yellow vests have not stopped, finding new allies on Wednesday.
The Yellow Vests Join May Day
May Day has a long history in Europe. Dating back millennia, it began as a festival to celebrate the change to warmer months. But in 19th century America, it took a new meaning, representing International Workers Day and the struggle for workers’ rights.
Since then, the day of worker solidarity has spread across the globe. And today, union groups and other activists take to the streets to protest what they believe to be unfair labor laws. In other words, thousands of Parisians were already planning to take to the streets to protest many of the same things as the yellow vests.
As a result, the marches of each group were to be stronger than usual. The yellow vests, whose movements have grown less numerous over nearly six months, appeared in greater numbers than they recently have. In March and April, numbers were sharply down from the peak of nearly 300,000 protestors. But the May Day movement appears to have revitalized many of the activists.
Protests Turn Violent
As of late afternoon, there have been numerous reports of the clashes turning violent. France has dispatched thousands of police officers with riot shields to try to bring order to the streets. Reportedly, the protestors have thrown bottles and other objects at the cops, setting at least one police van ablaze in a public area. Police responded by sending out waves of tear gas at the protestors, regardless of whether or not they had personally resorted to violence.
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) May 1, 2019
The cops also viciously beat many protestors with riot batons. Throughout the protest, they have infamously shot many of the French protestors, mostly with rubber bullets.
The movement has taken to Twitter to show what they believe to be unjust violence by French police forces. In the above video, an officer places a presumed protestor in a chokehold before beating him over the head with his hand. Countless other videos from the May Day protests show further violence from the police. Despite this, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has insisted the protests are largely peaceful.
Several days ago, the yellow vests rejected a tax cut plan that Macron proposed. With increasing violence this week, peace between the protestors and the French government appears unlikely in the near future. As the yellow vests continue their sixth month of activism, it is unclear to what lengths they will go for the changes they desire.
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