The gilets jaunes protests, which have been taking place every weekend since November in France, have claimed a number of causes as their own, from rising fuel taxes to income inequality. This past Saturday, “Act 23,” was particularly violent, with cars and bikes being burned in the streets.
But now the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) are upset about something new: the more than one billion dollars that have been donated to the French State to repair the Notre Dame cathedral. The church, which suffered heavy damage in an enormous fire last week, has been the subject of an almost improbable fundraising effort. The fundraising wave has been led by France’s three richest families: LVMH’s Arnaults; the Bettencourt Meyers, who own L’Oreal; and the Pinaults of Kering fame. But many are asking the question of why that money should go to repair an old church when France’s people are suffering without anyone to turn to.
It is a complicated moral question, to debate the ethics of charitable donations, but at this point, it strikes the onlooker as just another excuse for a protest. Sure, all that money could help a lot of people in France. But if the Pinaults and the Bettencourt Meyers have made their financial statements, is it the responsibility of the French government to determine their ethical purpose?
Get an street view of Saturday’s Act 23 protests through this body cam video by Le Figaro.