New Delhi: The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were closed and all Christmas lights are off in France. What began as a movement among a few people in lower-middle-class protesting a new eco-tax on fuel, have now taken an ugly turn. The protests are on for the fourth weekend now and have turned violent with several extremist forces cashing in on the row. A fortnight before Christmas, the streets of Paris are unusually quiet as the city lies under lockdown.

What’s happening?

  • A citizens’ protest movement took shape in France in early November against a planned rise in tax on diesel and petrol. President Emmanuel Macron had insisted that the hike in prices would help the country turn to green energy. 
  • The protest movement was named gilets jaunes or yellow vests because protesters wear the fluorescent yellow high-vis jackets that all motorists must by law carry in their cars.
  • What began as a fuel tax protest, has turned into a much bigger anti-government row.
  • The movement began online and began when people protested by putting up several videos under no banner of any political head or organisation. 

In numbers

  • On November 17, about 2,85,000 people demonstrated across France.
  • On December 1, it was estimated that around 1,00,000 demonstrated the protest.


  • During the demonstration on December 1, even though most protested peacefully, around 3000 fought running battles with the police, burned more than 100 cars, set fire to several buildings and smashed bank windows and shopfronts.
  • Gilets jaunes protesters in other regions continued to stage roadblocks, and some fuel depots have been blocked in the northwest.

Who are these protesters?

These protesters mostly come from the country’s middle-class. From IT workers, factory workers, delivery workers, and care workers, including many women and single mothers.

What do they want?

  • Scrap the hike in fuel prices
  • Raise minimum wage
  • Roll back Macron’s tax cuts for the wealthy
  • Hold a review of the tax system
  • Some of them also want Macron to resign

All eyes on Macron

Clashes broke out in cities across France, including Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Toulouse, during the fourth weekend of nationwide protests against rising living costs and Macron in general.

But it was Paris which again bore the brunt of the violence and destruction.

The government had vowed "zero tolerance" for anarchist, far-right or other trouble-makers seeking to wreak further havoc at protests that have sparked the deepest crisis of Macron's presidency.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe congratulated police for the operation and promised Macron would address the protesters' concerns.

"The dialogue has begun and it must continue," Philippe said. "The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue." Police reinforcements were boosted to 8,000 across the city, with armoured vehicles deployed in Paris for the first time