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How France's Yellow Vest Protests Damaged To Already Weakened President Macron: NPR



Protesters take part in an antigovernment yellow vest demonstration in front of the National Hotel of the Invalides in Paris early in January.
                
                
                    
                    Philippe Lopez / AFP / Getty Images
                    
                

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Philippe Lopez / AFP / Getty Images
        
    

Protesters take part in an antigovernment yellow vest demonstration in front of the Hôtel National des Invalides in Paris early in January.

Philippe Lopez / AFP / Getty Images
            
        

At Rouen's French town, a couple of dozen protesters gather every day, building a bonfire and occasionally blocking traffic. The threat of arrest does not keep them away. Au contraire, says protester Frederic Bard; the nationwide movement called the gilets jaunes, or yellow vests, feels pretty powerful.

"The media are all talking about us," he says. Macron has thrown us. "

A yellow vest protester at a traffic circle in northern France's Normandy region.
                
                
                    
                    Eleanor Beardsley / NPR
                    
                

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Eleanor Beardsley / NPR
        
    

President Emmanuel Macron has offered the concession as the minimum monthly wage by about $ 114 and eliminates the fuel tax. The leader's rating rating is slightly up to 27 percent in a recent poll. Yet protesters in the yellow vest movement, which has rallied for more than two months across France, say they are still fired up.

Taking their name from the high-visibility safety vests, their weekly turnouts are smaller now than the 300,000 who showed up when the rallies erupted nationwide in mid-November,

But the movement has stunned observers with its endurance, putting sustained pressure on an increasingly unpopular president and provoking one of France's biggest social crises since May 1968.

Bard says the protesters will not stop until Macron resigns. Other demonstrators talk about dissolving Parliament.

"They now refuse the possibility of compromising and negotiating with the government," Lazar says.

Just two years ago, Macron seemed unstoppable. France's youngest leader since Napoleon, he took office in May 2017 with a large majority in Parliament after his new party swept away establishment politicians. Today, Macron's presidency is paralyzed by a grassroots movement

Macron is a 41-year-old former banker who serves as an economy minister in the previous center-left administration. As president, he sets out to make the country's rigid labor market more flexible to stimulate job creation. Christophe Barbier, Macron needs to connect with the public better before making deep changes.

The president is widely criticized for the way it interacts with ordinary citizens. His gaffes are legendary.

Macron called opponents of his reforms "lazy," and he as the Gauls who are resistant to change. " When an unemployed man asked for help, Macron said he was just getting married in a restaurant.

The yellow vest movement is in a big city like Paris, where there is public transportation and relative economic growth, and those in small towns and countryside, who depend on their cars and have trouble making ends meet. These days, many of Macron's critics refer to him as president of the rich.

"For 40 years, our presidents have been favoring the banks, the rich and the big companies," says François Boulot, one of the demonstrators at the traffic circle in the northern French region of Normandy. "But Macron pushed these policies further."

To channel public anger, earlier in January Macron launches two months of town hall debates around the country. The French love political debates, so the democratic exercise has proved to be popular. Help shape the second half of Macron's four-year term.

Yellow vest protesters keep a bonfire going at a traffic circle near the city of Rouen in Normandy, France.
                
                
                    
                    Eleanor Beardsley / NPR
                    
                

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Eleanor Beardsley / NPR
        
    

Yellow vest protesters keep a bonfire going at a traffic circle near the city of Rouen at Normandy, France.

Eleanor Beardsley / NPR
            
        

The debates have helped to dissipate some of the anger.

But many continue to use the weekly street protests as their pressure relief valve. In some ways, the bonfires and bonhomie at rural roundabouts have […]

"Before, any village would have at least a newspaper and tobacco shop, a bakery and a couple of cafes where people could meet and socialize, "says 42-year-old Claire Bitaine, a yellow vest protester who has lived her whole life in the countryside of Brittany and Normandy.

" That's all, people are pushing to come to cities Even though there's no work. "

One thing keeping the movement going, Lazar, the historian, is wide public support.

" Many French people, even gilets jaunes yellow vest protesters are mostly white. Ethnic minority groups have been noticeably absent from the protests.

There could be another potential factor. Russian social media interference, following reports by cybersecurity experts of a network of hundreds of Twitter accounts.

Protesters clash with police as tear gas is used during an antigovernment demonstration called by the yellow vests at Angers, in western France, on Jan. 19.
                
                
                    
                    Loic Venance / AFP / Getty Images
                    
                

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Loic Venance / AFP / Getty Images
        
    

Protesters clash with police on anti-government demonstration called by the yellow vests at Angers, in western France, on Jan. 19.

Loic Venance / AFP / Getty Images
            
        

Whether or not there is any interference, France's social benefits have been on display. Some yellow vest protesters are more right, others are the right, but most say they are apolitical. They represent a crisis in a large section of French society rejects, says analyst Barbier.

Or that shareholders get divorced employees.

"In France, if you are good in business, you have to share the profit with everybody," Barbier says. The state is there to redistribute the wealth. "

" It's not smart, it does not deserve it. "

Political analyst and left-wing activist Thomas Guénolé says the level of political and social instability is becoming unsustainable.

Speaking last week on French radio, Philosopher Bruno Latour said the crisis is very serious, but it's at least it's giving France the chance to address some of its deep-seated issues and inequalities. "It could help France avoid a situation like Brexit in Britain," he said, implying the notion that the U.K.

Barbier thinks that Macron has learned his lesson, but that the president does not want to go back to the previous year.

"Those dreams are dead, "says Barbier. The young Emmanuel Macron has frightened people with his speed. "

Barbier says Macron wants a new team and a new one way of speaking to the French people. And he wants to slow down, way down.


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