The Yellow Vest protesters in Paris are now upset that France’s President Emanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild Notre Dame in the wake of its devastating fire, an effort which will require billions of dollars.
In a battle with police on Saturday, the Yellow Vest protestors “set fire to trash cans, scooters and a car and pelted police with rocks to draw attention anew to their 23rd weekend of protest,” Fox News reports.
The Yellow Vest protestors are angered over the fact that millions poured in from around the world to rebuild the Notre Dame cathedral — a cultural icon of France that has existed for nearly a millennia — while they protest income inequality. While they presumably understand the significance of the Notre Dame fire, they still want their demands met. More from the report (formatting adjusted):
Authorities deployed 5,000 police around Paris and warned protesters to keep away from Notre Dame and the banks of the Seine. The Paris police headquarters said authorities detained 126 people by early afternoon and carried out spot checks of more than 11,000 people trying to enter the capital for Saturday’s protests.
Police fired tear gas amid tensions at a march of several thousand people from France’s Finance Ministry toward the Place de la Republique plaza in eastern Paris. Barricades were set ablaze at one spot, and branches set on fire elsewhere. Firefighters quickly responded to extinguish the flames.
The Yellow Vest riots began in December 2018 and were some of the worst anti-government demonstrations that Paris has seen since 2005 — the result of a fuel tax hike that Macron implemented to combat climate change. Protesters, especially those in the suburbs, said the tax imposed too high a financial burden. Some 136,000 people protested in Paris at the height of the riots.
“We need taxes, but they are not properly redistributed,” one protester told BFM television. “We obviously need to fight against this.”
After enough pressure, Macron shelved the tax entirely. However, the “Yellow Vests” still vowed to stage demonstrations alongside trade unions and farmers. Jacline Mouraud, the self-proclaimed spokesperson for the group, told reporters at the time that Macron was “on the right path but in my opinion it will not fundamentally change the movement.” Furthermore, Mouraud told protesters to seize on Macron’s weakness and demand other perks, such as a minimum wage hike.
Since none of those demands have been met, Macron will now have to manage the rebuilding of Notre Dame (a monumental task) while placating an aggressive faction. Despite the Yellow Vest rage, Macron has shown no signs of backing out of his promise to rebuild the cathedral, which he hopes to have done in as little as five years. Macron’s commitment to rebuilding Notre Dame has been rather popular politically. According to Express, his approval rating in France has edged up by three points since Monday.
“Mr. Macron, 41, was seen in the eyes of many Parisians to have ‘rose to the occasion’ which has resulted in his popularity rise by three points in the latest poll,” reports the outlet. “Data from BVA, found the French president now has a 32 percent approval rating, with six out of ten people feeling he has done a good job handling blaze at the 800-year-old cathedral.”