50,000 Yellow Vests Rise Up in France as Macron's 'Tough Stance' Backfires
Protesters take to streets after French president's threat of 'hard line' against movement
Almost 50,000 French citizens took to the streets in protest across France over the weekend following President Emanuel Macron's recent threats to take a "hard line" against Yellow Vest protesters.
Macron's decision to take a "tough stance" towards the demands of his people severely backfired, however, as tens of thousands of yellow-vested demonstrators marched across cities throughout France, including Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Rennes, and Marseille.
Although the protests were planned to pick up again after the holidays, with many referring to the series of January marches as the "Yellow Winter," tensions have been heightened after Macron lashed out at the Yellow Vests, calling them a "hateful mob" of "racists."
France's liberal leader, who's been accused of being "hopelessly out of touch with his people," attacked the movement, accusing the demonstrators of targetting "Jews" and "homosexuals."
Some believe the so-called Yellow Vest protesters “take as a pretext that they are speaking in the name of the people” when “in fact, they are merely speaking for a hateful mob” that targets “police, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals,” Macron stated during a New Years Eve address.
The protests in Paris this weekend started peacefully, but soon descended into chaos after police used batons and tear gas during attempts to disperse crowds.
According to The Daily Caller, some protesters threw haymaker punches at baton-wielding police officers while other agitators lit cars on fire outside the Champs Elysees.
Much of the sting from the yellow vest protests, which began in November, had dissipated after Macron pulled back on an unpopular carbon tax.
But protests are firing back up with renewed intensity.
They began surging again after Macron promised in a New Year’s Eve address that his administration will take a hard line against future protests.
According to Al Jazeera, after clashing with police, some protesters managed to smash their way into a government ministry in Paris using a forklift.
Benjamin Griveaux - a government spokesman evacuated from his ministry in central Paris on Saturday when a handful of protesters in high-visibility vests smashed down the large wooden door to the ministry compound - denounced the break-in as an "unacceptable attack on the Republic."
"Some yellow vest protesters and other people dressed in black ... got hold of a construction vehicle which was in the street nearby and smashed open the entrance gate to the ministry," he told the AFP news agency.
They briefly entered the courtyard where they smashed up two cars, broke some windows and then escaped, Griveaux added, saying police were trying to identify them from security footage.
The Interior Ministry put the number of protesters who took to the streets across France at 50,000, compared with 32,000 on December 29 when the movement appeared to be weakening after holding a series of weekly Saturday protests since mid-November.
French President Emmanuel Macron did not specifically refer to the forklift incident, but tweeted his condemnation of the "extreme violence" against "the Republic, its guardians, its representatives and its symbols".
Police said about 3,500 demonstrators turned up on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on Saturday morning.
Some then made their way south of the river to the wealthy area around Boulevard St Germain, where they set light to a car and several motorbikes and set up burning barricades, prompting police to fire tear gas to try and disperse them.
Police said 35 people were arrested.
As many as 2,000 people were in Rouen, northwest of Paris, where some set up burning barricades. One protester was injured and at least two others were arrested, police said.
About 4,600 protesters hit the streets of the southwestern city of Bordeaux, with some hurling stones at police who answered with tear gas and water cannon.
Five police were hurt and 11 people arrested, local authorities said, adding several cars were torched and shop windows broken.
Further south in Toulouse, 22 people were arrested following clashes that erupted after 2,000 people turned out to demonstrate.
And in the central-eastern city of Lyon, several thousand took to the streets, blocking access to the A7 motorway and causing traffic jams for those returning from Christmas holidays in the mountains.
Female Yellow Vests
In response to Macron's accusations about the protesters, French women on Sunday marched in Paris to show solidarity for the "Yellow Vests," proving to the world that the movement represents the people of France and is not a violent rebellion, as the liberal media is attempting to frame it.
Some of the women waved yellow balloons and pushed prams.
Protests were also held in other French cities.
“All the media ever reports is the violence, and we are forgetting the root of the problem” which is the fight against austerity, said one protester, Karen, a 42-year-old nurse from Marseille.
The women sang the “Marseillaise,” France’s national anthem, as they gathered on the steps of the city’s opera house at Bastille before marching through nearby streets.