The Yellow Vest protests occurring throughout France don’t appear to be ending any time soon. The protests began more than nine weeks ago, originally as a rebuttal to a new tax on gasoline. However, the protests have spiraled into a general anti-government movement aimed at French President Emmanuel Macron and his administration, as well as other French politicians.
This week, Macron penned an open letter to the Yellow Vests in an effort to open a national debate about the movement’s grievances. According to one report from CNBC, Macron hoped the letter would prove that his administration was at least recognizing the validity of the complaints. However, he made practically no mention of changing any of the unpopular policies.
Over the next several weeks, French citizens are encouraged to participate in the “Great National Debate,” as the program is being called. The New York Times reports that the French government will be organizing several town hall-style meetings lead by “local mayors.” Macron hopes the open debates will give protesters a chance to vent their anger in a controlled and peaceful setting.
“For me, there is no banned issue. We won’t agree on everything, which is normal in a democracy,” Macron wrote in his letter, “but at least we’ll show we’re a people which is not afraid of talking, exchanging, debating.”
Despite Macron’s good intentions of focusing the collective anger of the Yellow Vest protesters into positive discussions, violence in the country persists. As the protest continues to evolve, experts are worried the violence will become more targeted against specific figures in the French government. The homes and offices of some pro-Macron politicians have been vandalized, according to Time, and demonstrators have been accosting politicians in the street.
While protesters have targeted politicians, some of the demonstrators have been injured and even killed over the last several weeks along with unlucky bystanders. Most recently, a French fireman who was taking part in the protests was shot in the head with a “less-than lethal” projectile fired by police officers in Bordeaux. The fireman is in a coma, according to one report from the Daily Express. The level of violence accompanying the Yellow Vest protests is attracting the attention of several historians. One historian, Christophe Bellon, remarked to Time, “Never in the 5th Republic has a social movement like this one reached this level of physical violence.”
“I’m furious. This is unacceptable. I won’t let it go,” said Cindy Beziade, wife of the injured fireman. “The pictures speak for themselves.”
🔴 💥📽️🇫🇷Image choquante 🔞 #GiletsJaunes #toulouse : Un manifestant #giletjaune a reçu un tir #flashball en pleine tête 😰. Il faut viser le cœur chers policiers!! 😱
PARTAGEZ MASSIVEMENT 🙏
#Acte9 #ActeIX @davduf #explosion #RIC #YellowVests #France #Macron #Benalla pic.twitter.com/obLo0EXwa8
— Le Général (@leGneral2) January 12, 2019