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Yellow Vest protest movement spreads to England

Not 1789, but 2019

For the eighth successive weekend, France’s ‘gilets jaunes’ (Yellow Vests) have gathered in various French cities, including Toulouse, Lyon and Paris, where there were violent clashes once again. Police said five thousand were in the city with a total of 25,000 across France as a whole. Several thousand protesters blocked the A7 motorway at Lyon causing major disruption.

The protests began in November last year to oppose increases in fuel tax.

They have since grown to include more general grievances against President Macron’s neo-liberal government and Macron himself dismissed the protest movement as “nothing but the voice of a hate crowd” despite widespread public support in France. Although concessions by the government were subsequently made after widespread rioting, a hard core group of activists have decided to maintain the protests into the new year echoing the fifties anti-tax movement of Pierre Poujade. The main dynamic behind Poujadism concerned the defence of ordinary folk against the governing elites. An early supporter of Poujade was Jean Marie Le Pen, who later formed the French National Front in 1972, now renamed the National Rally, led by his daughter Marine Le Pen, who has expressed support for the Yellow Vest protests.

Similar protests spread to Holland and Belgium, but seem to have petered out.

However, a couple of hundred pro-Brexit activists wearing Yellow Vests blocked roads and bridges in London this weekend.

After scuffles with the police, a number of them were arrested including a young teenage girl.

Smaller protests were also held in Manchester at the weekend and Gateshead, in the north east of England.

The potential for further protests remains following earlier and much bigger protests by the Football Lad’s Alliance and ‘Tommy Robinson’ in London last year.

The British Yellow vests although uncooperative with the police just like the equivalent movement in France have yet to reach both the numbers and militancy of their French counterparts, but managed to grab the attention of the liberal media.

Whether they fizzle out like the Dutch and Belgian equivalents or grow into something much stronger remains to be seen.