Yellow Vest Movement Holds 9th Act, Macron Pledges National Dialogue

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Above: Yellow vest protesters demonstrate peacefully in the streets of Paris, France, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. Authorities deployed 80,000 security forces nationwide for a ninth straight weekend of anti-government protests. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

On January 11, 2019, the Yellow Vest Movement continued its Saturday protests in their 9th Act since they began in mid-November.

Tens of thousands of yellow vest protesters marched Saturday through Paris and other French cities for a ninth straight weekend to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies and for greater economic equality. Protesters walked peacefully through central Paris from the Finance Ministry in the east of the French capital to the Arc de Triomphe in the west.

Police violence against the nonviolent protest has been a continuous problem in France. French armored vehicles blocked protesters from going onto nearby Champs-Elysees Avenue. Sporadic violence broke out with police during protests in Paris, Bourges, Bordeaux, Rouen, Marseille, and Toulouse. The Guardian reports in a video that this continued on the ninth consecutive weekend of demonstrations the police in Paris fired water cannons and teargas at Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protesters. The protests encompass a wide range of demands including giving people a greater say in policy via citizens’ referenda.

French authorities deployed 80,000 security forces nationwide for the anti-government protests. The Interior Ministry said more than 100 people had been arrested in Paris and other French cities.

As the Daily Star reported Macron “risked fanning the flames of division after implying Yellow Vest protesters are lazy.” President Macron, who is viewed as representing the wealthy against the interests of the vast majority of people, showed he remains out of touch with the population. RT reports:

President Emmanuel Macron criticized the citizens of France for not making enough effort, as the Yellow Vest protests against his economic policies entered their ninth week. The statement was met with fury.

“Many of our citizens think that it’s possible to obtain something without proper effort,” he said on Friday. “Sometimes people forget that alongside rights there are also duties,” Macron declared. He also repeated this idea in reference to “French youth.”

The president’s comments did not go over well with some politicians from both the left and right, who reacted with sarcasm and indignation.

Macron has given in to some protest demands and has used aggressive police efforts to try to control the protests. But, the movement continues. Macron’s latest attempt to throw the movement off track is starting a three-month national debate on January 15 to address the country’s burning issues. He will launch the debate with a “letter to the French” on Monday. ‘Angry France’, a group associated with the Yellow Vests, turned down Macron’s invitation to take part in the national debate, branding it a “political trap.”

Reuters reported that the national debate may have the opposite impact, point to French history:

In 1789, Louis XVI summoned France’s aristocracy, clergy and citizens to discuss ways to plug the crown’s dismal finances and quell popular discontent over a sclerotic feudal society.

It marked the start of the French Revolution. Within months he was powerless and four years later beheaded by guillotine.

Further, Reuters reports “The debate will focus on four themes — taxes, green energy, institutional reform and citizenship. Discussions will be held on the internet and in town halls. But officials have already said changing the course of Macron’s reforms aimed at liberalizing the economy will be off limits.” Macron risks making the same mistake that doomed the monarchy, historian Stephane Sirot of University of Cergy-Pontoise told Le Parisien newspaper. “Emmanuel Macron is like Louis XVI who … receives the grievance books but doesn’t understand anything from them.”

The BBC reports that French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said 60 percent – or about 3,200 – of the speed cameras had been vandalized since November when the movement began over fuel and tax increases. He describes the protests as having “neutralized, attacked or destroyed” more than half of the country’s speed camera network, which are seen by some as a cynical revenue-generating measure aimed at the middle and lower classes. Protesters have taken to covering the speed cameras in paint or black tape that prevents them from taking photos of speeding cars’ license plates and sending the motorists a ticket, according to U.S. News and World Report.