A protester wearing a yellow vest waves a French flag as he stands on the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration by the

French “Yellow vests” lose strength

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The “Yellow vests” movement, better known as Les Gilets Jaunes, which takes place all over France has reached its less adherence on its 17th consecutive Saturday of ongoing manifestations.

Landing in Paris, ready for a week of travelling in one of the most emblematic cities of the world, already dreaming about how you are going to wake up with a breathtaking view of the outstanding Eiffel Tower, already feeling your taste buds watering with the thought of les croissants, les crêpes, les baguettes, leaving the plane dressed in your best clothes, because your grandmother told you that you were going to be in the capital city of fashion, so “you cannot wear your typical rags there, Margarida”, already styling your whole toilette with an iconic red beret, … With all of this happening inside you and at your surroundings, you would never expect to have your whole travel itinerary ruined by a group of people dressed caricaturely with fluorescent vests, in an attempt to raise their voices, against what they believe it’s wrong in their own country.

This group of “vacation-ruiners” are actually called Les Gilets Jaunes. Their name, which, in French, means “Yellow Vests”, comes from the obligatory piece of clothing that drivers must, in accordance to the French Law, always carry with them in their vehicles and that the protestants use in their movement, in order to be easily recognized.

The movement’s beginning goes way back to the 17th of November 2018, where the Gilets Jaunes fought against the new fuel rates. In the meantime, the government cancelled the alleged increase in the fuel’s price. This victory has contributed to an expansion of the causes behind the manifestations, with those being extended to the whole social and fiscal Macron’s policy.

As a result of the movement, that raises its voice each Saturday since it first started last year, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, launched a national debate, with a duration of three months. This debate promotes the participation of the citizens in matters of national interest. It started in the 15 of January and will come to an end next Friday, March 15.

Despite the huge adherence, gathering people of all corners of the country, and inspiring other countries to follow behind, the french newspaper Journal du Dimanche published a poll, conducted by the IFOP institute, that concluded that the majority of the french people wants an end to this nonstop movement.

In the official Facebook page of the group La France En Colère, associated with the “Yellow Vests” movement, last weekend’s manifestation was scheduled to start on Friday, 8th, and only end on Sunday, 10th. The event was named “The Decisive moment” and the Gilets Jaunes’ goal was to block the city of Paris, with the manifestation’s epicenter being the Eiffel Tower and, from there, spreading to the whole capital city.

Cover of the Event; Photo from ‘La France en Colère’ Facebook Page

Even though the movement was considered to be peaceful, the last images spread of the manifestations have made it to appear increasingly fearsome and violent. Nevertheless, two questions that might arise are to what extent are these manifestations dangerous and if the french people are, in fact, against the Gilets Jaunes.

 

Maia, Portugal: Around 1580 km away from the epicenter of the manifestation

I’m not scared. I mean, it only causes inconveniences… Technically, they are a peaceful group. It seems that they are doing things in a non-violent way. But sometimes, well…. I’m not scared of the manifestation, I’m only going to avoid it because of the crowd. “, said Bárbara Barros, a passenger of the flight FR9135 leaving Porto on the morning of Saturday, 9th March, and landing in Paris-Beauvais. Bárbara is a normal traveller, full of excitement and ready to travel around the City of Lights for the following week.

 

Tilllé, France: Around 90 km away from the epicenter of the manifestation

The Gilets Jaunes movement is all about the people’s uprising against what is going on, because companies are the ones that make the decisions and not the government itself. Companies have the power and the government is merely a muppet of those companies. The people of the city live well, but the ones from the surroundings don’t.”, said Viktor G., a shuttle driver, that takes people from the Airport of Paris-Beauvais to their accomodation, in the city center of Paris. When asked if the manifestation was dangerous, he totally denied it, with an amused smile on his lips. Nevertheless, his smile seemed worn out when, on his way from the Airport to the center of Paris, Viktor had to make a great detour, because of the “Yellow Vests” manifestation that was happening in the entrance of the highway. After asking a police officer what was going on, the reply was a simple shrug and the alternative route to take, since the Gilets Jaunes were blocking the main entrance to the city of Paris.

Les Gilets Jaunes block Paris entrance

 

Villejuif, France: Around 15 km away from the epicenter of the manifestation

Villejuif-Louis Aragon Metro Station

Les Gilets Jaunes are a good thing for everybody. Life is very difficult. There is an inequality between workers and the others. In life, everything has costs, very high costs. For example, I am a single mom with three kids, three young boys, no dad and only one income. How am I supposed to pay all expenses, with everything costing a lot of money?”, explained Sephora, a worker on the Information Desk of the metro station of Villejuif- Louis Aragon, in the surroundings of the city of Paris.

On the screens, spread all over the metro station, you could see a warning that announced that some stations were going to be closed to the public, during that Saturday (9th March). It was an order of The Prefecture, the local government in the area, and it was justified by the Gilets Jaunes manifestation that was happening. When asked about this announcement and whether the tourists of the city should be scared, Sephora added ”So, the conflict on itself is not dangerous. The Gilets Jaunes on themselves are not dangerous. It is the ones that come and join that make the manifestation dangerous.”

Announcement in Metro Station

Paris, France: Around 300 meters away from the epicenter of the manifestation

Regardless of the metro announcement, that painted the Gilets Jaunes movement as unsafe to hang around, I started my route to the Eiffel Tower, the alleged point where the manifestation started, by getting out on the station of Champs-Élisées Clemenceau, crossing the bridge Alexandre III and following the path alongside the river Seine. On my way, I kept paying attention to any kind of yellow popping out, but nothing come to my sight. Since the event created on the Facebook had its duration set by the 06:30 pm of Friday until the 06:30 am of Monday, it would be expected that by the 05:30 pm of Saturday, the time I got to the Eiffel Tower, the manifestations would still be going on.

Nevertheless, after going around the Tower, I was still unable to find any sign of the Gilets Jaunes.

An empty Eiffel Tower, without Yellow Vests

Les Gilets Jaunes are on the other side of the Tower, they are a lot, haven’t you seen them? Pay attention, because they are there. Today. The police appeared and bam!, with the tear gas…”, revealed Ciprian Chirila, the owner of a food truck nearby the Eiffel Tower. Unconvinced, I then asked about the dangers of the manifestation. “If you get in the way between the police and the Gilets Jaunes, it is dangerous. If you just pass by, it is not. For the tourists it’s safe. ” Questioned about his opinion on the movement, Ciprian said that it was normal. “Here, the prices for the taxes, for the life are expensive. And everything keeps going up. It’s the problem of the government.”

After talking to Ciprian, I went to the other side of the Eiffel Tower, looking out for any sign of the yellow vests. Nonetheless, I was not able to spot any other crowd of people that did not consist of a gathering of tourists around any street artist. After doing some reasearch on the theme and according to an article of Euronews published on the 10th of March, I then realised that the manifestations of the Yellow vests have been losing their power. Despite that, and with the thought that next Friday, 15th of March, the national debate promoted by Emmanuel Macron will come to an end, Les Gilets Jaunes are expected to come in full strength, causing incoveniences not only in the streets of Paris, but all over France.

Photo from ‘La France en Colère’ Facebook Page
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