Yellow vest violence sparks French counter protests
Around 10,000 people wearing red scarves or “foulards rouges” marched through Paris on Sunday to protest against vandalism of anti-government demonstrations by the “yellow vest” (gilets jaunes) activists.
The “red scarves” demonstration came amid growing divisions around the 11-week-old yellow vest movement, which has led to rioting across France and exposed profound discontent with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Meanwhile, the “gilets bleus” (blue vests) – another movement similar to the red scarves – also campaigned for an end to the traffic disruption and violence that has paralysed France for 11 weekends.
There is also the “gilets verts” (green vests) who campaign for a socially just transition to renewable energy.
“People are tired of the roadblocks. They are bad for business, and children are prevented from getting to school on time,” red scarves spokesman Alex Brun told broadcaster RFI.
Damage to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris last month was a turning point for many of the counter-protesters on Sunday’s march.
The yellow vest movement has sparked some of the most serious street violence in Paris since 1968.
“We don’t share all the demands expressed by the yellow vest movement, for instance, demands about overthrowing the government, brutalising institutions,” said Laurent Segnis, a member of Macron’s party, Republic on the Move.
Protesters said the yellow vests had moved away from their roots in response to a fuel tax rise and was increasingly radicalising.
The yellow vests fragmented last week when some activists announced their candidacy in the European parliamentary elections in May.
Previous attempts by yellow vests activists to engage in a political dialogue with established politicians have so far resulted in abuse and threats from more extreme elements in the movement.
The yellow vests must now raise €700,000 to field the election list of candidates, with Le Figaro reporting that it had so far collected about 10 per cent of the target.
A red scarf joint statement from various similar-minded groups said: “We denounce the insurrectional climate installed by the yellow vests. We also reject the threats and constant verbal abuse (aimed at non-yellow vests).”
Around 2,000 people have been injured in protests since the movement began on November 17, as participants threw rocks at officers and set fires in the streets. Ten people have died in road accidents related to the yellow vest blockades.
The yellow vests accuse Macron of favouring the wealthy and some of its supporters called the red scarves Macron stooges. There was no official involvement from Macron’s party at this weekend’s demonstrations.
But one of the organisers of Sunday’s march, Laurent Soulié, had tried to persuade supporters on Facebook to back Macron, RFI reported.
There has been a backlash against the yellow vest violence. Picture credit: YouTube