History Of The ‘Yellow Vests’ – From Grassroots Movement To Political Force

The Yellow Vest movement started out as a group of French citizens who were voicing their grievances about the government on social media. And it has grown to the point where members are now meeting with leaders in Italy.

It started in October 2018 with a single video that was viewed more than 6.3 million times. In it, a disgruntled citizen criticized President Macron for the ways he was spending taxpayers’ money and the hounding of drivers through increased fuel taxes.

After nearly one million people signed a petition to lower the price of fuel in France, the movement shifted from online to on the ground with the first demonstration on November 17, 2018. Around 290,000 protesters put on yellow vests and took to the streets across the country. But despite the massive turnout, the prime minister of France said the government would not back down on the taxes. 

Then the second day of protests one week later drew a crowd of more than 166,000 individuals. In some cases, the Yellow-vest wearing protesters destroyed property and clashed with police. Macron addressed the protesters on November 27, and said he hoped to turn their anger into solutions. 

But he provided very few solutions, and the protests continued for the third week. Violence erupted near wealthy neighborhoods in Paris as with more than 136,000 participants took to the streets.

Students calling for reforms on the cost of education were among the protesters, and they blockaded around 100 high schools as a result. 

In a landmark decision, the French government announced on December 4 that it would suspend the planned tax increase on fuel for the next 6 months.

The suspension was later changed to scrapping the fuel tax altogether after protesters pledged to continue their demonstrations—despite the threat of force from police in riot gear with armored vehicles. The demands from the group went beyond the fuel tax, and millions watched as Macron announced on December 10 that he was offering an increase in the nation’s minimum wage and tax-free overtime pay. 

Since then, reports have claimed that the protests have continued at a decreasing rate. All in all, 10 people have died, hundreds have been injured and thousands have been arrested during the protests.

The future of the Yellow Vest movement still remains to be seen by one thing is clear—a small grassroots movement has served to show both the power of social media and the power of the people.

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Rachel Blevins is a journalist who aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives.

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