By Juliette Gaggini ’20
The French mouvement des gilets jaunes, or the yellow vests movement, which started back in November 2018 when French President Emmanuel Macron hiked up fuel taxes, has recently taken a turn. Macron has continued to announce further tax price rises in hopes of combating climate change, which led to increased anger with yellow vest supporters.
Since the start of the movement, the goals of the protesters have shifted and created a greater divergence throughout France. The original protesters of the Movement des Gilets Jaunes advocated against the raise in fuel prices, wearing the fluorescent yellow safety vests that are required by French law for all motorists to carry. There have been a steady decrease of protesters, though many still fighting have been reaching extreme measures to get their point across to the French government.
Various violent outbursts have occurred, especially in the busy streets of Paris, with demonstrations involving torching of local businesses and banks. Supporters of these hate crimes wish to overthrow big businesses, banks and Zionist powers. Since the start of the movement there have been extremists who protested violently, which skewed the views of many French citizens and kept them away from the movement.
As the movement has progressed, demonstrators have gotten more violent and demanding, with hints of anti-Semitism in their demonstrations. France, home to the largest population of Jewish in Europe, has seen an estimated 74 percent rise in anti-Semitic acts in the past year.
Although these few violent, anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic demonstrators do not represent the majority of the people advocating for the yellow vest movement, they have created a bad image for the movement and caused a major loss of supporters from the original movement. The movement itself is rooted in fuel prices and disagreement with government funding, but has evolved into an outlet for anti-Semitic people to voice their opinions.
One popular demonstration of anti-Semitism within the movement has been the usage of the quenelle. The quenelle is a gesture that was started by a French comedian many years ago, serving as a symbol of hailing Hitler with a half arm raise. This anti-Semitic hymn has driven many original supporters far away and has created tensions within the nation.
Although the original goal of the yellow vests movement was to retaliate against the raised fuel tax, some of the people involved with the movement have changed its purpose. With some instilling fear in their own nation, the movement has taken its toll on major cities and demanded their wants be met. Many demonstrators continue to fight on against the raise in fuel prices as they rely on their cars, but the overall outlook on the movement has completely shifted.