Boston Free Speech In Paris – Gilets Jaunes ( Yellow Vest) Act III
On December 1, 2018, 4 members of Boston Free Speech took the trip across the pond to stand with the patriots of France taking part in the Gilets Jaunes – the Yellow Vest movement. A brief breakdown of what’s going on. The Gilets Jaunes movement started out as a working class-led protest; their initial demand was to repeal the carbon tax placed on diesel, increasing the burdens placed on the lower-middle class people in the already most-taxed country in the world. Now the movement has bypassed all sides of the political spectrum and the trade unions.They’re just regular working citizens who are angry. Now, the reasons why French citizens are putting on the yellow reflective vest are vast. Many folks are suffering with decreased purchasing power, and retirees are treading water with government pensions. Others are voicing their rejection to Frances’s globalist policies hurting its own people. Many now wish for a dissolution of the National Assembly and wish to hold new elections, in addition to asking Macron to resign.
A BFS delegation met with local French patriots at 6:00 a.m. before attempting to enter the arrondissement (neighborhood) of the planned protest (scheduled at 2pm). All of Paris’ downtown intersections were totally locked down by The Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité – the French National Police. The goal was to make it to the city’s famous Avenue des Champs Élysées.
Boston Free Speech’s reason to make this trip and stand with the French was for the reason why we take to the streets in America to peacefully stand up for Free Speech & the right to assemble. The protests have been on-going for weeks, yet few news organizations have covered it. Those that did only had had the fuel-tax to mention, and not the many grievances that brought the diverse assortment of yellow-vests to the streets. We began our walk from the other side of the river, finding it hard not to notice the men and women of all ages getting out of taxis, parked cars, metro stations, and homes donning their yellow vests. What started as a few people turned into a dozen and then hundreds as they all gave a smile or a nod as strangers merged together and continued their walks.
After walking in our group for about 30 minutes, we finally found a route to meet with the growing crowd at The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile – one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. Once joining the 4-500 people protesting around the Arch, it was clear the police have already started to shutdown the protest before it even started. Our group of around 15 made our way on the edge of the traffic circle alongside student media groups to survey what was going on, when almost immediately 3 GLI-F4 grenades (stun grenades containing ten grams of powdered CS and the explosive charge of 25 grams of TNT that’s banned everywhere but France) were thrown into our crowd unprovoked. The close blast ripped flesh and clothing from a person’s leg and striked many of us with shrapnel and debris. They then shot 10-20 cans of CS gas that rained down on the group, and charged at us in formation to push us to the larger group. Any assembly of more than 3 people were met with canisters being thrown to disperse them or herd them into the other crowd. This was now only 9am, and already the views of the Arch have been obstructed by the haze from the hundreds of incendiaries. The police’s hyper aggressive tactics were the major motivating factor for the rest of the day. Inside the crowd – despite all of the blasts in 360°, smoke canisters, CS, water hoses, and charging riot cops – the mood was mostly festive. Most of Gilets Jaunes were there for their voices to be heard, not to be violent. This is not to say some didn’t inject themselves for the wrong reasons, but this was not the majority, and you saw others correcting this from within the group.
After about 1-2 hours, the Gilets Jaunes numbers grew in the thousands, often breaking out in renditions of the La Marseillaise – the national anthem of France, and chants of Macron, t’es foutu ( Macron you’re screwed). A chant from within the group was met with a roar from others who were stuck behind the barricades and fencing and not allowed through the streets. As the day moved on, groups of Gilets Jaunes branched out down streets attempting to leave the kettle of smoke and gas, which the Arch has now become, leading to more police aggression and an equal reaction from the protestors. The whole city was engulfed by these protests, with protestors becoming increasingly agitated by the escalated offensives of the police. We stood and supported the peaceful actions of the protest until late into the evening, wandering through the neighborhoods to see each new faction of Gilets Jaunes groups.
We in BFS will go anywhere and support the rights of Free Speech; we stand up to those who wish to oppress it. These protests will not end for the French people until they feel their voices are going to be heard, and not shutdown.