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Who are the “Yellow Vests”? 4 things to know about the violent Paris protests

Who are the “Yellow Vests”? 4 things to know about the violent Paris protests
[Photo: AFP/Getty Images]

The “Yellow Vests” protests in Paris have been called the worst riots to hit the French capital since the turbulent 1960s, with NBC News reporting more than 100 people injured and 412 arrested in protests this weekend.

Here’s what we know about the protest movement:

  • Their name has a specific meaning: The protest movement, known as “gilets jaunes” in French and “Yellow Vests” or “Yellow Jackets” in English, takes it name from the high visibility vests typically worn by construction workers operating near traffic. French drivers are required to keep the vests in their cars in case of emergency, and they’ve been worn by protesters seeking to draw attention to their demonstrations.
  • They sprung up quickly: The movement reportedly arose more or less spontaneously around the middle of last month, as a protest against an environmentally motivated raise in gas taxes. Since then, people have joined the movement over economic struggles faced by middle- and working-class French people under President Emmanuel Macron.
  • They’re decentralized: The protests are chiefly organized using social media rather than being led by any formal, organized parties, unions, or other groups. Protesters reportedly come from all over the political spectrum and from across France, including many suburbanites and rural dwellers fed up with rising prices and stagnant wages. The ad hoc structure has made negotiating with protest leaders a challenge for government officials.
  • They’re spreading: The protests are supported by 72% of the French population, according to a Harris Interactive poll. The Guardian reported Monday that protests continue to spread across the country, with French high school students also taking to the streets and blockading their schools.
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