French Gov’s ‘Tone Deaf’ Response Isn’t ‘Concrete Measures’ Yellow Vests Want


from Sputnik News:

On Tuesday, the French government blinked: under intense pressure from the Gilets Jaunes protests – the “Yellow Vests” demonstrating in the streets of French cities for weeks – Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared a six-month moratorium on the fuel tax increase and froze electricity and gas price hikes for three months.

“Three fiscal measures were to enter force on 1 January next year… Having heard this demand expressed by almost all of the interlocutors I have met throughout consultations in recent days, I am suspending for six months these fiscal measures,” Philippe said before the National Assembly in Paris on Tuesday, Sputnik reported.

The Yellow Vest demonstrations began November 17, motivated by sharp increases in fuel prices as well as new taxes due to begin at the end of the year, which many working people said would put them further “in the red.” Since then, the demonstrations have erupted in cities across France, ranging from peaceful protests to civil disobedience to the lighting of fires, destruction of boutiques and of luxury cars, and clashes with the thousands of riot police summoned to the metropolitan areas to quell the demonstrations.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire noted on Monday that the three-week-long protests have taken a growing toll on the French economy, slashing the revenues of small retailers between 20 and 40 percent, the hotel industry by 15 to 25 percent and restaurants, depending on their location, by between 20 and 50 percent, Reuters reported.

The movement has a distinctly decentralized character, being organized and coordinated via social media, which has been both a strength and a hindrance. On the one hand, there are no leaders, only issues; on the other — there are no leaders. The range of politics finding articulation in the demonstrations spans from the right-wing Front National and Debout la France to the left-wing La France Insoumise. Both Marine le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon have proposed dissolution of the National Assembly and the holding of new elections in response to the crisis.

“I’m not right or left, I’m a Gilet Jaune,” schoolteacher Marie Lemoine told the Guardian. Likewise, spokespersons claiming to represent the Yellow Vests have sprung up in cities across the country, declaring themselves to be apolitical but later being revealed to have hard-right connections. For example, Frank Buhler, who has emerged as a major leader of the movement on social media, was ejected from Front National last year for racist remarks, France 3 Occitaine reported on November 23. The news outlet reported that it was his idea to extend the demonstrations to the French capital itself, and that he took a major role in beginning them there.

Other episodes have shown the opportunistic nature of some of the demonstrators: Europe 1 reported on Yellow Vests in the Somme who turned six migrants hiding inside a fuel tanker truck over to the gendermeries Tuesday.

“What a shame,” tweeted Thomas Portes, a spokesperson for the Communist Party of France. “Decidedly for them, the solidarity stops at the skin color and origin.”

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