Yellow vests movement

Yellow vests movement
Gilets jaunes protests
Part of protests against Emmanuel Macron
2018-12-01 14-35-57 manif-GJ-Belfort.jpg
A Gilets jaunes protest in Belfort, France on 1 December 2018
Date17 November 2018 – present
(9 months and 29 days)
Caused by
  • Ongoing
  • Cancellation of fuel tax and six-month moratorium on diesel and petrol price changes[45]
  • Announcement that price of Électricité de France blue tariffs would not increase before March 2019[46]
  • Elimination of tax on overtime and end-of-year bonuses[47]
  • Decrease of fuel and motor taxes[48]
Parties to the civil conflict
Gilets jaunes
Lead figures
Maxime Nicolle
( also known as "Fly Rider")[51][52]
Eric Drouet
Christophe Chalençon
Priscillia Ludosky
Jacline Mouraud
Jérôme Rodrigues[57][58]
Etienne Chouard

France Emmanuel Macron
President of the French Republic

France Édouard Philippe
Prime Minister of France

France Christophe Castaner
Minister of Interior
287,710 protesters (peak, according to the Ministry of the Interior)[60]
8,000 police (15 Dec. 2018: Paris)
Death(s)11 people, including 3 yellow vests, were killed in traffic accidents caused by yellow vests roadblocks in Belgium and France, 2 yellow vests, both aged over 50, died during the demonstrations due to heart problems unrelated to the protests, 1 woman died of a surgical shock at the hospital after she had been injured in the margins of a demonstration.[62]
Injuries4,000 (police and civilians)[61]

The yellow vests movement or yellow jackets movement (French: Mouvement des gilets jaunes, pronounced [muvmɑ̃ de ʒilɛ ʒon]) is a populist,[63] grassroots[64] revolutionary[65] political movement for economic justice[66] that began in France in October 2018. After an online petition posted in May had attracted nearly a million signatures, mass demonstrations began on 17 November.[67] The movement is motivated by rising fuel prices and a high cost of living; it claims that a disproportionate burden of the government's tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes,[68][69][70] especially in rural and peri-urban areas.[32][71] The protesters have called for lower fuel taxes, a reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, a minimum-wage increase, the implementation of Citizens' initiative referendums,[40] as well as the resignations of President Emmanuel Macron and the Second Philippe government.[citation needed]

The movement spans the political spectrum. According to one poll, few of those protesting had voted for Macron in the 2017 French presidential election, and many had either not voted, or had voted for far-right or far-left candidates.[72] Rising fuel prices initially sparked the demonstrations. Yellow high-visibility vests, which French law required all drivers to have in their vehicles and to wear during emergencies, were chosen as "a unifying thread and call to arms" because of their convenience, visibility, ubiquity, and association with working-class industries.[73]

The protests have involved demonstrations and the blocking of roads and fuel depots, some of which developed into major riots,[74] described as the most violent since those of May 1968,[75] and the police response, resulting in multiple incidences of loss of limb, has been criticised by international media.[76] The movement has received international attention, and protesters in many places around the world—some with similar grievances, others unrelated—have used the yellow vest as a symbol.[77][78]


The issue on which the French movement centred at first was the projected 2019 increase in fuel taxes, particularly on diesel fuel.[79] The yellow vest became the symbol of the protests, as the French are required to have a yellow vest in their vehicles.[citation needed]

General discontentment

Already low in early 2018 (47% approval in january 2018[80]), French President Emmanuel Macron's approval rating had dipped below 25% at the beginning of the movement.[81] The government's method of curbing the budget deficit had proven unpopular, with Macron being dubbed the "président des très riches" (president of the very rich) by his former boss, François Hollande.[82]

Late in June 2017, Macron's Minister of Justice, François Bayrou, came under pressure to resign, due to the ongoing investigation into the financial arrangements of the political party (MoDem) he leads.[83][84] During a radio interview in August 2018, Nicolas Hulot had resigned from the Ministry of the Environment, without telling either the President or the Prime Minister of his plans to do so.[85] Criticized for his role in the Benalla affair, Gérard Collomb tried to resign in October 2018 as Minister of the Interior—leaving himself with only two jobs, as senator and mayor of Lyon—but saw his resignation initially refused, then finally accepted.[86][87]


In the 1950s, diesel engines were used only in heavy equipment so, to help sell off the surpluses in French refineries, the state created a favorable tax regime to encourage motorists and manufacturers to use diesel.[88] The 1979 oil crisis prompted efforts to curb petrol (gasoline) use, while taking advantage of diesel fuel availability and diesel engine efficiency. The French manufacturer Peugeot has been at the forefront of diesel technology, and from the 1980s, the French government favoured this technology. A reduction in VAT taxes for corporate fleets also increased the prevalence of diesel cars in France.[89] In 2015, two out of every three cars purchased consumed diesel fuel.[88]

Fuel prices

The price of petrol (SP95-E10) decreased during 2018, from €1.47 per litre in January to €1.43 per litre in the last week of November.[90]

Prices of petrol and diesel fuel increased by 15 percent and 23 percent respectively between October 2017 and October 2018.[91] The world market purchase price of petrol for distributors increased by 28 percent over the previous year; for diesel, by 35 percent. Costs of distribution increased by 40 percent. VAT included, diesel taxes increased by 14 percent over one year and petrol taxes by 7.5 percent.[91] The tax increase had been 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol in 2018, with a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol planned for 1 January 2019.[92][93]

The taxes collected on the sale of fuel are:

  • The domestic consumption tax on energy products (TICPE, la Taxe intérieure de consommation sur les produits énergétiques), which is not calculated based on the price of oil, but rather at a fixed rate by volume. Part of this tax, paid at the pump, goes to regional governments, while another portion goes to the national government. Since 2014, this tax has included a carbon component—increased each year—in an effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The TICPE for diesel fuel was raised sharply in 2017 and 2018 to bring it to the same level as the tax on petrol.
  • Value added tax (VAT), calculated on the sum of the price excluding tax and the TICPE. Its rate has been stable at 20 percent since 2014, after having been at 19.6 percent between 2000 and 2014.

The protest movement against fuel prices mainly concerns individuals, as a number of professions and activities benefit from partial or total exemptions from TICPE.[30][94]

The protesters criticized Édouard Philippe's second government for making individuals liable for the bulk of the cost of the carbon tax. As the carbon tax had progressively been ramping up to meet ecological objectives, many who have chosen fossil fuel-based heating for their homes, outside of city centres—where a car is required—are displeased. President Macron attempted to dispel these concerns in early November by offering special subsidies and incentives.[95][96]

Diesel prices in France increased by 16 percent in 2018, with taxes on both petrol and diesel increasing at the same time and a further tax increase planned for 2019, making diesel as expensive as petrol.[97] President Macron is bearing the brunt of the protesters' anger for his extension of policies implemented under François Hollande's government.[97]

Speed limit reduction

The government decided in 2017 to cut the speed limit on country roads from 1 July 2018 from 90 to 80 km/h with the aim to save 200 lives each year, after research found that "excessive or unsuitable" speed was involved in a third (32 percent) of fatal road accidents. The change was opposed and was a factor in the rise of the yellow vest movement. It was seen as another tax via citations [98] and a failure to understand the needs of rural residents who are totally reliant on their cars. Vandalism of traffic enforcement cameras grew significantly after the yellow vest movement began.[99][100][101]

Economic reforms

The protesters claim that the fuel tax is intended to finance tax cuts for big business, with some critics such as Dania Koleilat Khatib claiming that spending should be cut instead.[102][103] Macron said the goal of the administration's economic reform program is to increase France's competitiveness in the global economy, and says that the fuel tax is intended to discourage fossil-fuel use.[95] Many of the yellow jackets are primarily motivated by economic difficulties due to low salaries and high energy prices.[104] The majority of the yellow jacket movement wants to fight climate change, but are opposed to forcing the working class and the poor to pay for a problem they say is caused by multinational corporations.[105][106]

Yellow vest symbol

A high-visibility vest, the key symbol of the protests

No one knows how the high-visibility yellow vest came to be chosen as the symbol and uniform for the movement, and no one has claimed to be its originator.[73] The movement originated with French motorists from rural areas who had long commutes protesting against an increase in fuel taxes, wearing the yellow vests that, under a 2008 French law, all motorists are required to keep in their vehicles and to wear in case of emergency.[74] The symbol has become "a unifying thread and call to arms" because yellow vests are common and inexpensive, easy to wear over any clothing, associated with working class industries, highly visible, and widely understood as a distress signal.[73] As the movement grew to include grievances beyond fuel taxes, non-motorists in France put on yellow vests and joined the demonstrations, as did protesters in other countries with diverse (and sometimes conflicting) grievances of their own.[73][74] In the words of one commentator, "The uniform of this revolution is as accessible as the frustration and fury."[73]

Other Languages
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Рух жоўтых камізэлек
Bahasa Indonesia: Gerakan rompi kuning
íslenska: Gulvestungar
македонски: Жолти елеци
română: Vestele galbene
Simple English: Yellow vests movement