They call themselves the yellow vests. As a French citizen, I understand their anger and no matter the injuries they face, they continue to find some wiggle room for their voice. To this day, 13 weeks into what feels like the new normal in France, yellow-vested protesters show no sign of stopping despite the brutal beatdown they face. You may wonder why these people are angry. I’ll tell you why.
For those of you who don’t know the name Macron, it’s the surname of France’s most in-the-news politician, as well as the country’s current president. It’s easy to sound 100% believable when under the pressures of a pending election; politicians fill their speeches with undertones of promise. Macron promised a new political world and we entrusted him. But the new world he claims to have created is no different than the old world: where the tax burden falls primarily on those in the middle and working class.
The yellow jackets, a sign of danger and doom after a highway voyage gone totally off course, are a visual expression of discontent with a president who has also detoured well off course. The problem with the yellow jacket movement is that it seems to have united a group of people who want to make ends meet and who seek legitimate political change with another group of citizens—those who have joined the unrest as a chance to express anger and violence. This creates a dangerous outlet: one that can hurt innocent people and, in turn, create a burgeoning demand to be heard through violence. I understand their anger but I don’t agree with the way they express it. At first, it was a harmless movement where people with signs needed to get the word across. Clearly, breaking out in havoc does happen to do the trick to bring attention to themselves.
It is the intent and the anger that we can relate to. However, the actions that accompany these intentions are dangerous: breaking monuments, setting cars on fire, throwing rocks at officials. In my opinion, the worst representatives of the protest are now behaving like children by throwing these violent tantrums and allowing those who aren’t in the movement for the right reasons to inspire even more violent backlash. Something that the French steadfastly defend is the concept of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” At this point, with the political leaders panicking about how our image is portrayed around the globe, this idea we admire has become folklore. It doesn’t ring true anymore as long as what all sides fight for is increasing their political and financial gain.
This all started with the price increase of fuel taxes. Now, as they have underlined that these taxes are in the favor of those in the middle and working class, a more recent argument is that the entire system is rigged in favour to the rich. Macron, along with his ministers, are struggling to react. I support the complaints of the yellow vests but not their pillaging and outbreak of anger that has caused havoc and fear in the country. This weekend saw approximately 84,000 people protesting in the streets.
Neither side of the battlefield is safe. Officials are trying to restore order while the yellow jackets are trying to be heard. None of the officials can determine what’s best as a solution to calm the anger but simultaneously provide for peace on the streets and solve for long-term economic stability. As for the protesters, the harmful and harmless, they face the dangers of dodging tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons while exercising their right to gather at the famous landmark, L’Arc de Triomphe. The Guardian, has reported that “Luc Ferry, a former minister under Jacques Chirac has called for police to use ‘shoot to kill’ tactics against the yellow vests.” Indeed, the tendency toward violent clashes is escalating from both sides.
Police violence is now on the rise as there have been documented cases of them causing detrimental and life-changing injuries. They have started using different types of weaponry. Another fact they also state in the article I read said, “Flashballs are nominally ‘non-lethal’ weapons. But according to a study in BMJ Open, their impact can be lethal in three percent of cases and can cause permanent disability in six percent of cases. In a 2017 report for the French parliament, France’s human-rights commissioner called for them to be banned. In December, the interior ministry defied this recommendation, ordering over 1,200 new Flashball launchers in response to the yellow-vest unrest.”
To conclude, we’ve always been taught that fighting fire with fire will not root out the problem. Violence only begets violence. Although Macron didn’t keep his promise of a new world of equality, we need to tamper our anger and seek change by more diplomatic means. Otherwise, we will indeed be creating a new world: a dystopian one where violence is the only legitimate means of being heard when needed.