Over the last two weeks, France has been struggling with wide-ranging protests all over the country. But you need to see the footage to believe it.
A group of protesters without an apparent leader have been taking to the streets in gilets jaunes, the yellow vests worn by French people when their cars break down and they need to call for assistance. (Les gilets jaunes is also what the protesters are being called.) These yellow vest protesters have been blocking off roadways, starting fires, and carrying signs with messages calling out French president Emmanuel Macron, whose new taxes on fossil fuels have riled up people across France. But the longer the protests go on, the more apparent it becomes that the issue isn’t just about fuel taxes. This speaks to a larger divide in France between urban and rural areas, with people in small French towns (many of whom supported Macron’s rival, far-right politician Marine Le Pen) claiming that Macron is not only a president for the rich, but a president for Paris alone. Because when gas prices go up, it’s not the metro card holders who suffer the most.
This urban/rural, left/right, outsider/establishment debate has been causing chaos and division across the world, and with Macron at record low approval ratings, he will need to work hard and fast to convince middle class and blue collar citizens in rural France that he has their best interests at heart. But for now, he is only adding fuel to the fire.