The French are certainly not shy of taking to the streets. Strikes, demos and protests are a normal feature of French political life. But the rise of the gilets jaunes – a leaderless, bottom-up protest movement sparked by green taxes – is something different. These protesters, whose symbol and uniform is the hi-vis jacket that all French people are required to keep in their cars, have staged the most significant revolt in France since les événements of May 1968.
For the past month, hundreds of thousands of yellow vests have taken to the streets all over France. Some have blocked fuel depots, supermarkets and motorway junctions, others have staged barricades outside government buildings. Organised on social media, this spontaneous, leaderless movement initially sprang up in response to a hike in tax on diesel. But it has grown to encompass a wider mood of anger against the French establishment. High levels of taxation, low wages, declining purchasing power and the growing divide between the big cities and their peripheries have all played a role.
Against the State: An …
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Last Saturday, protests in Paris exploded into full-blown rioting on the Champs Élysées: cars were torched, windows were smashed and the Arc de Triomphe was daubed in anti-Macron graffiti. But these violent scenes in Paris have not dented the movement’s popularity. A poll for RTL, conducted after the riots, showed that while 85 per cent of the public are uncomfortable with the violence, a whopping 72 per cent support the movement.
Other actions have contributed to the mood of insurrection. On Monday, paramedics staged a surprise protest against social-security…