Timeline of the yellow vests movement
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17 November: "Act I"
The protests began on 17 November 2018, and attracted more than 300,000 people across France with protesters constructing barricades and blocking roads. John Lichfield, a journalist who witnessed the riots, described them as insurrectional.
In addition to roads, protesters also blocked as many as ten fuel depots. On this first day of protests, a 63-year-old pensioner was run over by a motorist in Le Pont-de-Beauvoisin while she was demonstrating at a roundabout at the entrance to a commercial zone. A motorcyclist died after being struck the same day by a van trying to get around a barricade. By 21 November casualties had climbed to 585 civilians and 115 police injured, with 16 civilians and 3 police severely wounded.
Protests also occurred in the French overseas region of Réunion, where the situation developed into looting and riots. Schools on the island were closed for three days after protesters blocked access to roads. On 21 November, President Macron ordered the deployment of troops to the island to calm the violence.
24 November: "Act II"
With the protests in Paris having raised tensions the previous week, the Interior Ministry agreed to allow a gathering on 24 November at the Champ de Mars. The protests attracted 106,000 people all across France, only 8,000 of whom were in Paris, where the protests turned violent. Protesters lit fires in the streets, tore down signs, built barricades and pulled up cobblestones. Police resorted to tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. On 26 November, an official estimated that the riots in Paris during the two previous days had cost up to €1.5m in damage. Two hundred additional workers were assigned to assist with the cleanup and repair work.
1 December: "Act III"
A protest called "Act 3 – Macron Quits" was organised for 1 December.
Yellow jackets briefly occupied the runway at Nantes Atlantique Airport and prevented access to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport. Vinci Autoroutes reported tollbooths were blocked on 20 major arteries all across France.
In Marseille, where demonstrations have been frequent since the 5 November collapse of a building and the evacuation of the surrounding neighbourhood, an 80-year-old Algerian woman trying to close her shutters was hit by shards from a police tear gas canister, later dying while in surgery. A second motorist was killed on the third weekend after crashing his van into stopped lorries at a barricade on the Arles bypass.
More than 100 cars were burned in Paris during the protest on 1 December, and the Arc de Triomphe was vandalised. On the following Monday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo estimated the property damages at €3–4 million.
8 December: "Act IV"
Protests turned violent for the second week in a row in Le Puy-en-Velay. Civil unrest marred the Festival of Lights in both Lyon and Saint-Étienne. The A6 motorway was again blocked north of Lyon in Villefranche-sur-Saône.
Paris experienced protests for the fourth consecutive week. Many shops were boarded up in anticipation of violence, with The Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Paris Opera also closed. Police assembled steel fences around the Élysée Palace and deployed armoured vehicles on the streets in an attempt to limit the violence.
10 December: Macron's televised address
In his 10 December speech to the French people in response to the movement, Macron pledged a €100 per month increase in the minimum wage in 2019, the exclusion of charges and taxes on overtime hours in 2019, and on any 2018 end-of-year bonuses paid to employees. Macron likewise announced that pensioners on low incomes would be excluded from an increase in the CSG in 2019. He stood by his replacement of the solidarity tax on wealth with increases in property taxes. The broadcast was watched by more than 23 million people, making it the most-viewed political speech in French history. After investigation, it became apparent that the minimum wage itself would not be raised by €100 a month but that those eligible would see an increase in the activity bonus paid by the CAF.
On 11 December, after having declared a state of economic and social emergency the day before, Macron invited representatives of the French banks to the Elysée to announce that the banks had agreed to freeze their prices in 2019 and to permanently limit incident-related fees to €25 a month for people in extreme financial difficulty, as determined by the Bank of France.
15 December: "Act V"
In the wake of the 2018 Strasbourg attack, the government asked protesters to stay off the streets. According to the Paris prefecture estimates, there were 8,000 police for 2,200 demonstrators in Paris. The Minister of the Interior estimated that 66,000 people protested in France on 15 December. Conflict arose in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon and Paris. At the end of the day, the Interior Minister called for the roundabouts, occupied since 17 November, to be liberated.
22 December: "Act VI"
Demonstrations continued throughout the country. The Ministry of the Interior announced a participation figure almost half that of the previous week with 38,600 demonstrators throughout France, including 2,000 in Paris according to the Prefecture of Police. Versailles Palace was preventively closed for the day. Éric Drouet, the 33-year-old truck driver who is one of the most followed yellow jackets on Facebook, was arrested for organising an undeclared demonstration and participating in a violent assembly. He had called on Facebook for demonstrators to meet at Versailles but then revised the call to Montmartre after it had been announced that Versailles would be closed. Authorities say that Drouet was carrying a truncheon and would be summoned in court where they would seek to prevent him from coming to Paris.
Protesters blocked border traffic to Switzerland at Cluse-et-Mijoux. They were dispersed after one hour by police. Similar operations were conducted at the Spanish, Italian, German, and Belgian borders. Two distribution platforms were blocked in Montélimar: EasyDis (Groupe Casino) and Amazon.
Overall, at least 220 people were arrested in the country, including 142 in Paris. A motorist was killed on 21 December when his car hit a truck that was stopped at a blockade in Perpignan, the tenth fatality overall.
29 December: "Act VII"
In Paris, the protesters demonstrated in front of the headquarters of BFM-TV, Libération and France Télévisions. Victor Glad suggests that the same crisis of representation motivating the citizens' initiative referenda is also behind the gilets jaunes' criticism of the traditional media.
5 January: "Act VIII"
According to French Ministry of the Interior, the first demonstrations of 2019 brought 50,000 people into the streets across France. A door to Rennes' city hall was damaged, while government Spokesman Benjamin Griveaux was evacuated from his office on Rue de Grenelle (Paris) through the garden, after rioters hijacked a forklift to break down the door to the Ministry. There were also skirmishes in Bordeaux, Nantes, Caen & Rennes.
Women's role, both in defining the movement's objectives and in communicating at roundabouts, is—for editorialist Pierre Rimbert—a reflection of the fact that women make up the majority of workers in "intermediary professions" but are three times more likely to be classed as "employees" than men according to an INSEE study in 2017. Women organized separate demonstrations in Paris, Toulouse and Caen. According to one of the organizers, the goal was to have a "channel of communication other than violence".
A civil servant and former light-heavyweight boxing champion was filmed fighting with two gendarmes on a footbridge about one of the gendarmes' use of force. One month later the civil servant was sentenced to serve one year of sleeping in jail, which allowed him to continue to work.
12 January: "Act IX"
Attendance increased in the ninth straight weekend of protests, with at least 84,000 demonstrating on 12 January for economic reform across France, including 8,000 in Paris, 6,000 in Bourges, 6,000 in Bordeaux, and 2,000 in Strasbourg. Government officials deployed 80,000 security forces nationwide, vowing "zero tolerance" for violence. The CRS (riot police) resorted to tear gas in most major cities.
On the streets of Paris, protesters marching "noisily but mostly peacefully", singing the French national anthem, were met by 5,000 riot police officers, armored vehicles and barricades. Citing the 5 January attack on the Dijon gendarmerie and terror threats, the police communication service said that some CRS agents were authorized to carry semi-automatic weapons. This was confirmed by the Paris prefecture. Small groups of people left the designated protest route and threw projectiles at police. Around the Arc de Triomphe, riot police fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters after being hit with stones and paint. 244 people were arrested nationwide; 156 in Paris.
A "massive" gas explosion caused by an apparent gas leak in a bakery in northern Paris killed four people, including two firefighters already at the scene investigating the leak, and injured dozens more. The explosions occurred early on 12 January, while Paris was under heavy guard in anticipation of the day's demonstrations. The French Interior Minister told the media that "responsibility triumphed over the temptation of confrontation" and that protesters marched in Paris "without serious incident".
19 January: "Act X"
As in week IX, police estimated that 84,000 people demonstrated across France, including a peak of 10,000 in Toulouse for a short period, 7,000 in Paris (where protesters demonstrated on the Left Bank for the first time), 4,000 in Bordeaux, and 2,500 in both Marseille and Angers. This weekly protest is the first to happen after the launch of the "Great National Debate" by President Emmanuel Macron.
26 January: "Act XI"
Nationwide demonstrations continued for an eleventh straight week on Saturday, 26 January. The French interior ministry estimated crowds of 69,000 across the country, and local police estimated 4,000 in Paris. A high-profile member of the protest movement, Jérôme Rodrigues, was maimed after being shot in the face by police with a flash-ball launcher, resulting in the loss of his right eye. Dozens of people have been similarly injured during the course of the yellow vests protests. "I was deliberately targeted. I am a figure of the movement, at least in the Paris protests, and police pointed their fingers at me many times during previous demonstrations, so I think they knew very well who they were shooting at," Rodrigues told the media. The following day, an estimated 10,000 people marched in Paris in a foulards rouges ("red scarves") counter-protest in opposition to the yellow vests.
2 February: "Act XII"
On Friday, 1 February 2019, Edouard Philippe went to Bordeaux and informed merchants that an agreement had been found with insurers to treat insurance damage claims in successive weeks as part of a single event (with a single deductible). He also announced that the ten cities most affected by degradations, including Bordeaux, would receive €300,000.
On Saturday, 2 February, between 10,000 and 13,800 people protested in Paris, with thousands more in Tours, Valence, Marseille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and other French cities. In Valence, the downtown shopping district was boarded up; the city had removed trash cans, park benches and protective fencing around trees in preparation. Paving stones had been tarred over to eliminate the risk of their being used as projectiles. According to the préfecture, 1850 people demonstrated in downtown Tours, which had likewise been boarded up.
The demonstrations of "Act XII" focused on denouncing the number of serious injuries caused by police violence during anti-government demonstrations. According to the French government, around 2,000 civilians were injured in protests between November 2018 and February 2019, including four serious eye injuries. The government agency that investigates police abuses has opened 116 investigations into police conduct during the protests, ten of which concern serious eye injuries suffered by protesters. A group of 59 lawyers published an open letter denouncing the treatment of protesters in the courts, including rushed judgments against protesters without regard for their rights, which they contrasted with the slow pace of investigations into reports of police violence.
Earlier in the week, France's highest court denied a request to ban police from using "flash balls" or "defensive ball launchers", known as LBDs, that shoot 40 millimetres (1.6 in) rubber projectiles, which have been blamed for a number of serious injuries. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner admitted in media interviews that the weapon could cause injuries and had been used more than 9,000 times since yellow vests demonstrations began. The day before the Act XII protests, the government warned the public that police would not hesitate to use the weapons to combat violence by demonstrators, since they had been authorized by the court. On Saturday, thousands in Paris participated in a "march of the injured" calling for the weapon to be banned. Injured protesters marched at the front, some wearing eye patches with a target sign on them. Jerome Rodrigues, a well-known participant in the movement who lost an eye in the previous week's demonstrations, was received warmly with applause by the crowds.
Most of the demonstrations during Act XII were peaceful. As in prior weeks, 80,000 security officials had been mobilized, including 5,000 in Paris. In Paris, police used tear gas and water cannons at Place de la Republique in the city centre to force demonstrators back after clashes with protesters, some hooded or masked, and some who set fire to bins and a scooter. Despite these incidents, the media reported that demonstrations "remained relatively calm compared to previous weekends." Two police officers were injured and two protesters arrested in Morlaix; two officers injured and one demonstrator arrested in Nantes; and in Lille, where between 1,800 and 3,000 protesters marched, 20 were arrested.
The twelfth week of protests occurred as the French parliament was considering a new law proposed by Macron's governing party restricting the right to protest. The proposed law would outlaw covering one's face during a street demonstration (whether with a helmet, mask, or scarf), punishable by a €15,000 fine or imprisonment, and allow local police to establish blacklists of people not allowed to participate in street protests. The proposed law was opposed by some members of parliament inside and outside Macron's party.
16 February: "Act XIV"
About 41,500 protesters (5,000 in Paris) took to the streets again on Saturday 16 February, for the 14th consecutive weekend.
In Paris, a group of individuals involved in the march confronted the high-profile Jewish philosopher and academician Alain Finkielkraut with anti-Semitic verbal abuse. Police stepped in to protect him, and Macron later said that this behaviour was an "absolute negation" of what made France great and would not be tolerated. The man leading the insults against the philosopher on published video-recordings of the event was detained for questioning on Tuesday on charges of hate speech. Police indicated he was close to the Salafi movement in 2014.
16 March: "Act XVIII"
Leaders of the movement stated on 8 March 2019 that a protest (which had already been dubbed "The Ultimatum") was currently being planned for the following weekend of 16 March.
200 people were taken into custody in Paris after the Champs-Elysées was again targeted by rioters. Luxury stores including Fouquet's, Hugo Boss and Xiaomi were among the 80 businesses damaged, pillaged or set ablaze. Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, called upon the government to do something about the political and social fracture.
In response, the French government announced it would deploy the military, in addition to extra police and gendarmery forces. The soldiers will be drafted from Operation Sentinelle, active since the January 2015 terror attacks in Paris.
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Ce mardi soir, cette dernière comptabilisait plus de 938 325 signataires sur internet.
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les gilets jaunes ... ont publié une liste de revendications sur les [sic] internet, à l'initiative d'une manifestante de la Sarthe.
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women are most of the staff of many vital but invisible sectors in a neoliberal society. They care, educate, support, and clear up the mess.
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les secteurs majoritairement féminins de l'éducation, ds soins, du travail social ou du nettoyage forment la clé de voûte invisible des sociétés libérales en même temps que leur voiture-balai.
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"Montpellier ... Les casseurs [sic] ont répliqué à des caillassages par des tirs de bombes lacrymogènes.
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- Media related to Mouvement des gilets jaunes at Wikimedia Commons