Trevor Dobbs, Staff Writer
When most people think of Paris and France as a whole, they picture beautiful cathedrals, bustling street markets, romantic river tours and a sparkling Eiffel tower. That vision of France has been hard to find for the last two weeks, as protests have all but turned many areas of the country into a war zone of violent and dramatic protests. While these protests are mostly confined to the Paris area, accounting for over a hundred thousand protestors alone, protests are happening in nearly every major city and tourist zone in the country. While most of the protests have been peaceful, they have nonetheless so far shown to be a dramatic response to the recent policies of the French government.
The French are somewhat known for their protest and strike culture, as anyone whom has been to Paris and had their vacation plans canceled due to a strike can attest to. However, this time, it appears to be something different. Protesters are not just blocking streets, closing establishments and obstructing general economic activity; these protesters are starting fires, throwing grenades in the street, and damaging property in a whole array of ways. The government’s response to these protests has been to throw tear gas into the crowds, shoot the crowds with water cannons, and arrest several people.
The protestors are calling themselves “yellow jacket activists,” which is named after the yellow reflective jackets that the protestors wear during the demonstration – a play on the government requirement for French drivers to carry such a jacket in their vehicle at all times.
The primary reason for these recent protests was to respond and send a message to the governments new fuel tax that is being imposed by French President, Emmanuel Macron.
Macron’s reasoning behind this fuel tax is to combat climate change and to modernize France, but many people who call France home are expressing their grief to this proposal due to the fact that it will raise living costs across the country as fuel supply increases in energy markets worldwide.
While these protests have mostly been about the fuel prices, many protestors and public figures suggest that it is a protest against the Macron administration as a whole, with his administration showing an average approval rating in the low 20 percentile, it is easy to see that the French are angry about the performance of their leader as his approval ratings continue to plummet after almost every proposal produced by his administration. Despite these protests, Macron seems to be mostly unchanged in his plans for the new tax and has went as far as to call the protestors “thugs” by protesting these rising costs.
In these protests, over 600 people were injured and 3 people were killed in last Saturday’s protest alone. The cost of cleanup of the damage that has resulted from these protests continues to climb but has thus far caused over $1,650,000 in damage. It is unclear when these protests will cease as the Macron administration has no intention of changing the direction of the government in regards to the tax.