Violent protests against wealth inequality in France continue, but many capitalize on economic anxiety for nationalist ends
As French citizens have been protesting against wealth inequality and rioting in the French captial for the past weeks, the participation of the far right under the guise of an “apolitical movement” against higher taxes is coming under scrutinity.The Gilets Jaunes or “Yellow Vests” movement behind the protests accuses the French president of a “pro-business” agenda and favoring the rich over the working class. Protests reach a tipping point when the government’s significantly increased fuel taxes.
During October, truck drivers called for a national protest against the sharp rise of gas prices. To identify their participation in the protests, people wore yellow emergency vests as France requires all drivers have a yellow vest in case of an accident. Over the past weekend, the protests escalated into violent riots, leaving burning cars all around and the Arc de Triomphe vandalized.
Last year, Macron dropped the old wealth tax and introduced a new tax on homes with estate valued above €1.3 million. Government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux explained to the Wall Street Journal, “The tax that was removed was to encourage investments in the real economy. It was not a gift to the rich. If that’s not the case, if the evaluation is not good, then we can reopen it for discussion.”
Despite the international support of the “Yellow Vest” movement, many left wing activists have pointed out the presence of the far-right and criticize the participation of well-known nationalists and racists. After Yellow Vest protesters assaulted an elderly Black women and told her “go back to [her] country” on November 17th, many share that while the needs of the working class must be addressed, the movement cannot be co-opted by reactionary white nationalists who may use their economic anxiety for racist actions.