The Story Behind French Yellow Vest Demonstrations

The Story Behind French Yellow Vest Demonstrations

Saturday, April 20, 2019 11:58 pm

Protesters chant slogans during the ‘yellow vests’ demonstration on the Champs-Elysées near the Arc de Triomphe recently



By Georgia Pouliquen

In November 2018, many French citizens decided to protest in the streets everywhere in France. Called “yellow vests”, they want to be acknowledged by their President and not to be ignored by him.


They protest against tax policy, which mostly affected workers of the middle or lower classes and retired people. Fuel prices took off, so that it became very hard for citizens to go to work, especially those far away from big cities, with no public transports available. Simultaneously, prices significantly increased for essential products, food, electricity, gas. For the first time since the struggle for women’s suffrage, finally granted in the 1940s, demonstrators include many women, who worry how they could feed their children tomorrow, pay their bills, often they are single parent homes.


Most yellow vests had never demonstrated in their entire life before and had voted for Macron but they soon felt betrayed.


President Macron often makes disparaging comments about French people, comments that receive good coverage in the media. He called women workers in Factory Gad “illiterate”, people of North of France – a former mining area – “alcoholic”, French people “lazy”, “cynical”, “refractory gallics”, who “lost the taste of effort” and he said “In a railway station, we meet successful people and people who are nothing”.


French people felt insulted and despised and more and more close to the breaking point.


When, without warning, he increased fuel taxes, he struck at people’s ability to earn a living and people spontaneously took to the streets to protest.

But Macron ignored their legitimate concerns. Instead of easing tensions, government launched a massive repression against protestors, violating constitutional freedom of demonstrating, injuring peaceful people, especially young people, using special police units called ‘Rapid Reaction Detachment’.

These groups of ultra-violent policemen, hooded, wearing helmets, red armbands, civilian dress without service number (for identification), use tear gas or sting ball grenades and assault rifles like HK 416, and latest model of Defence ball launchers No.40 (often called Flashballs), LBDs in French, with laser guided aiming. They can target the head regardless of the rules of useage. Twenty one protestors have been enucleated (MAJ. 11/03/2019: 22) according to independent news website Mediapart.


Policemen purposely avoid those rioting who come from outside the movement who commit criminal and material damage, only Yellow Vest peaceful demonstrators [the suspicion is that they may be agent provocateurs]. Police order medical services not to provide care to injured protestors and refuse to receive their complaints. ‘street medics’ (first aid volunteers), try to help injured with disinfectant sprays, plasters, bandages but police often confiscate their medical kits.


In Paris policemen stand in front of protestors and if those move to peacefully demonstrate, without any aggressive act toward police, officers stop them from marching and keep them confined inside an area, often a roundabout, like around the Arc de Triomphe, put a roadblock in every street around so that protestors can’t escape [kettling].  If citizens try to move, police engage in hostility with LBDs, gas and sting ball grenades. That’s not safeguarding public order, that’s a massive and bloody repression. Police aren’t acting defensively but proactively in attacks against protestors [you can see that regularly in the online videos].


At February 28, 2019, Journalist, David Dufresnes, counted more than 2000 injured among protestors, including 220 seriously. 21 lost an eye [since police have laser guided weapons and are directed to aim only at the torso or limbs, it cannot be by accident that so many yellow vests have lost and eye – this is horrific and shows distain for peaceful demonstrators], 5 have had their hand torn off and a 80 years woman died, after being hurt by a tear gas grenade.


It is claimed by the authorities that 1200 policemen have been injured since November, but ministry can’t provide any information on the context of these injuries, the weapons that may have caused them and they don’t distinguish between serious and minor injuries.


An eminent neurosurgeon, Professor Thines, on March 9th, 2019, in a major speech, declared that LBD’s caused real war wounds, fracture skulls, irreversible brain damage, enucleations, disfigurements, maxillofacial traumas, mutilations, loss of limbs. According to the British Medical Journal, a victim wounded by LBD’s has a one in five chance of dying or becoming severely disabled.

He earestly appealed to government to ban these Flashballs. Citizens are massively and indiscriminately arrested, even tourists or passers-by.

Since the beginning of the movement, according to the Ministry of Interior, there have been more than 8000 arrests, 7700 in police custody, 1796 convictions and 316 imprisonment.


Instructions are given by the prosecutor of Paris on Yellow Vests. According to the independent newspaper Le canard  enchaîné  (January 30th, 2019) even if someone was mistakenly arrested, written instructions were given by Prosecutor: ‘preferably to maintain’ registration in the police record ‘even when the facts haven’t been established’ or ‘are tenuous’ or ‘if a procedural irregularity has been ascertained’. They are also requested to ‘lift the police custody’ only ‘on Saturday night or Sunday morning, so as to avoid protestors joining the ranks of the troublemakers again’.


Government also discredits the Movement, conflating Yellow Vests with rioters. Main Stream Media (MSM) is propagating fake news, especially to mislead foreign observers. Macron in his New Year address called Yellow Vests a “hate crowd” opposed to “journalists, Jews, gays and foreigners” without any fact or proof.


Yellow Vests are a peaceful and non-political movement including many workers that pay taxes and demonstrate to shelter and feed their children and provide for their futures. They protest because taxes took off while public services remain in a dreadful state. Public money no longer serves the public interest; instead France is the second country after USA, to provide the largest dividends to shareholders.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on France on March 7th, 2019 for a “thorough inquiry” about police brutality during the “yellow vests” demonstrations since mid-November.


And on February 26, 2019, Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights “recommends that the authorities suspend the use of LBDs during operations aimed at maintaining public order (…) extremely concerned about the number of serious, concurring and credible allegations of police violence causing mutilation and serious injury, particularly to the head. She considers that head wounds caused by LBD fire show a disproportionate use of force and the unsuitability of this type of weapon in the context of operations aimed at maintaining public order.”


Security without freedom is tyranny.


Georgia Pouliquen, lawyer, as of 11th March 2019



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