LES GILETS JAUNES, France’s nationwide ‘yellow vest’ protest movement, has organised to unite and descend on Paris today Saturday 24 November, in an attempt to bring the French capital to a standstill.
Motorists in Paris and perhaps the surrounding region are advised to avoid travelling by road today. That’s because the so-called ‘yellow vest’ movement, which has grown out of anger over rising fuel prices, has planned a major operation that they hope will bring the French capital to a standstill.
The revolt is primarily about a steep rise in pump prices, especially for diesel (which still powers over 60 per cent of French cars). In the last 12 months, the typical French forecourt price for ‘sans plomb 95’ has risen from 1.36 euros a litre to over 1.60 euros. The price of diesel has risen from 1.24 euros to over 1.50 euros.
France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said authorities have received no official request from anyone associated with the ‘yellow vest’ movement to hold a protest in Paris. But that doesn’t mean protesters won’t descend on the city. A Facebook page calling for the mass rally today ‘because that is where the government is!’ has garnered widespread interest.
One of the main Gilets Jaunes organisers Eric Drouet took to social media to call on protesters from all over the country to converge on Paris’ Place de la Concorde from 8am-11am today. Some 175,000 people have signalled they are interested in coming to the event that Drouet has dubbed ‘Act 2, the whole of France to Paris!’
He wrote on Facebook, ‘We expect everyone, truck, bus, taxi drivers, chauffeurs, farmers, etc. … Everyone!’ ‘We must deliver a coup de grace and all head to Paris by whatever means possible,’ said Drouet.
Road blocks were back in place in parts of France on Wednesday morning as the Gilets Jaunes’ anti-government protests continued for a fifth day. ‘Yellow vest’ protesters set up barricades in parts of France once again on Wednesday, the fifth consecutive day of protests against rising fuel prices.
While the movement declined in numbers since Saturday, when almost 300,000 people took part in operations that brought roads and motorways across the country to a standstill, groups of protesters were still determined to carry on their struggle. Early on Wednesday there were reports of around 10 road blocks or barrages filtrants – where protesters allow a small number of vehicles through at intervals – being set up in the Dordogne, including on the bypass at Bergerac and roundabouts in Sarlat.
There are other reports of road blocks in Brittany, notably in Finistere and Morbihan.
There were also reports of dozens of vehicles being stranded throughout the night on the bridge on the A10 motorway between Saint-André-de-Cubzac and Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.
The company Vinci Autoroutes, which runs part of France’s motorway network, reported 62 points of protest on or near its motorways with the A7, the A9 and the A64 the most affected. The French Interior Ministry on Wednesday condemned the fuel tax protests that led to two deaths, 552 wounded protesters and 95 wounded police officers.
French police moved to dislodge protesters blocking roads and fuel depots on Tuesday as the government took a harder line on the movement against environmental taxes on fuel. Hundreds of thousands of people blockaded roads across France on Saturday wearing high-visibility yellow vests in a national wave of defiance aimed at centrist President Emmanuel Macron.
The disruption underlined the anger and frustration felt by many motorists, particularly in rural areas or small towns, who are fed up with what they see as Macron’s anti-car policies, including tax hikes on diesel. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner instructed police to begin breaking up the remaining roadblocks, particularly those around fuel depots and sites of strategic importance.
The ‘yellow vest’ movement, which began on social media and has won backing from opposition parties on both the left and right, accuses Macron of squeezing the less well-off while reducing taxes on the rich. ‘It’s about much more than fuel. They (the government) have left us with nothing,’ Dominique, a 50-year-old unemployed technician told reporters at a roadblock in the town of Martigues, near the southern city of Marseille.
Macron’s government, which is trying to improve its environmental credentials, has vowed not to back down on trying to wean people off their cars through fuel taxes.
As blockades continued into a third day on Monday, an independent nurses’ union said its members will add their voice to protests on Tuesday.
Thirty years after the strikes of 1988, some of France’s 660,000 nurses were back on the streets on Tuesday, in support of the protests. Some had joined in the weekend’s blockades and demonstrations. Members of the profession, notably independent professionals who care for patients in their homes, are having to absorb the added costs as they do not receive fuel allowances.
In a statement, the Convergence Infirmière union, said: ‘Fuel prices are constantly rising, for all French citizens, at a delirious rate, which is driving the inflation curve upwards. Independent nurses are all the more concerned because these incessant increases penalise them not to get to work … but to do their job!
‘Fuel is one of the components of their profession since, let us not forget, nurses travel to their patients’ homes, seven days a week, 24 hours a day … 365 days a year.’ The union pointed out that hospitals would struggle to cope with the number of patients if independent professionals did not keep beds clear by allowing patients to be treated at home.
Despite the pressure, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe vowed on Sunday evening that the government would stick to the plan to raise fuel taxes further in January. His comments came after several ministers had earlier declared that there would be no change in the government’s line. ‘So far as ecological taxation is concerned, we’ll carry on as planned,’ Environment Minister François de Rugy said. ‘Not to do so would be irresponsible.’
Meanwhile, nurses held a mass protest outside the health ministry in Paris on Tuesday.
About one hundred nurses staged a protest in front of the prefecture in Nice on Tuesday afternoon. They were protesting at the introduction of the 2022 health plan and their levels of pay. Thousands of health workers and nurses’ unions took to the streets of Paris on Tuesday demanding better working conditions.
Dominique Lanquetin, Vice-president of National Union of Operating Room Nurses (UNAIBODE) said: ‘Today we are in front of the Ministry for Health – we have gathered here with 16 other associations and professional nursing unions, in order to demand – first and foremost – better working conditions because this is deteriorating more and more.
‘Our budgets are being ever further restricted; We are being required to do more and more with less.’ Ahmet, General Confederation of Labour-Workers’ Force union said: ‘This promise we have made to take care of people’s illnesses. ‘In France, we have arrived at a disaster in healthcare.
‘You will have more and more people who will die on poorly equipped operating theatres, people will wait 13 at 15 hours for emergencies and that will endanger their life expectancy. ‘So it’s a social pact that is being broken! All this for the benefit of a small minority! I have nothing against the business. But for business to serve the common good, that’s all!’