“Macron your goose is cooked, the chicks are in the street!”
That was the chant by one large contingent of women marching in the French city of Toulouse on Sunday as female-led demonstrations took place across France in order to keep the pressure on President Emmanuel Macron while also pushing back the increasing displays of violence some within the broader “Yellow Vest” (or Gilets Jaunes) movement argue is overshadowing the underlying political message.
“All the media ever reports is the violence, and we are forgetting the root of the problem” which is the fight against austerity, one protester named Karen, a 42-year-old nurse, told Agence France Presse on the streets of Marseilles.
Sunday’s demonstrations followed a day of protests on Saturday during which violence broke out in Paris and other cities as those participating in “Act VIII” protests under the Yellow Vest banner clashed with French riot police, erected barricades, and started fires:
“The ‘yellow vest’ protest movement, which has now seen protests on eight consecutive Saturdays,” reports AFP, “was initially triggered by anger over an increase in fuel taxes. But it has since morphed into a campaign against the high cost of living and the government of President Emmanuel Macron, seen by many as arrogant and beholden to big business.”
Laurent Berger, head of the reform-minded CFDT trade union, France’s largest by members, on Sunday accused Macron’s government of going it alone while ignoring the legitimate concerns of those who support the complaints, if not always the tactics, of the Yellow Vest protesters. “We’re at an impasse. We have on the one side a violent movement … and on the other a government which thinks it can find the answers all on its own,” Berger told France Inter. According to polls, approximately 55 percent of the French public currently support the protests, though that is a smaller number compared to the 75 percent who registered approval in November when the movement began.
According to the BBC, the violence that broke out on Saturday included demonstrators in Paris using a construction vehicle to bash down the office door of government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux, forcing him and others to flee out a back exit:
The march in Paris began peacefully but scuffles broke out in the afternoon, with protesters throwing projectiles at riot police who responded with tear gas.
Motorcycles and bins were set ablaze, and a river boat caught fire.
Mr Griveaux said around a dozen individuals – some wearing black, some in yellow vests – used a small construction vehicle they found in the street to break through the door into the government compound. They also broke some windows and damaged some cars.
“The gilets jaunes movement for those who are still mobilized have become agitators who want insurrection and, basically, to overthrow the government,” Griveaux later told reporters. “They have engaged in a political battle to contest the legitimacy of the government and president. These people who call for debate don’t want to take part in our national debate.”