What is driving the yellow vests to violence?
France's government wants to pass tougher demonstration laws to crack down on violence at protests. The new legislation could be modelled on the laws dealing with football hooligans. There were once again violent incidents during the yellow vest protests on Saturday. Commentators are unconvinced that the violence will end anytime soon.
The irresistible urge to revolt
Sociologist Marc Lazar explains in La Repubblica what is fuelling the protests:
“The yellow vests are expressing a social anger that has increased ever since the start of Macron's presidency. ... They're giving voice to the enormous fears of large sections of society - public and private sector employees, workers, tradespeople, small entrepreneurs, pensioners, single mothers, women in precarious situations - impoverished and marginalised by changes that affect both their work and their social environments. They feel left in the lurch, spurned, bereft of prospects. Add to that a long-standing element of French society: the passion for equality, the disdain for the rich, an acceptance of the use of force and an idealisation of the French Revolution. ... They compare Emmanuel Macron with Louis XVI. And his wife with Marie-Antoinette.”
They want to break with the past
Communication expert Arnaud Benedetti writes in Le Figaro that the protest is reminiscent of revolutionary situations:
“'Yellow vestism' is first and foremost a moment of rupture, a turning point, that certain something that ushers in a radically new situation. If today's commentators and actors are unable to grasp what is happening, it's above all because it goes beyond our frames of reference. That's what makes a revolution a revolution. It demolishes, it disconcerts, it stupefies. The process that we have been experiencing over the last few weeks is like that: it is quasi revolutionary.”
Overwhelmed governments can be dangerous
Columnist Cristian Unteanu is concerned in his blog for Adevărul that the protests could spill over into other European states. But what worries him more is how governments could react:
“These events don't mean that Europe is sinking into violence, merely that there are signs that today's democratic governments seem outdated, as their set of rules evidently no longer corresponds to today's reality. ... The politicians sense that, but the only thing they come up with is to take refuge in dictatorship, be it military or populist, even though a combination of the two resulted in the tragedies of both world wars. ... This time the threat comes from within, and the democratic coating of certain incompetent and overtaxed governments seems to be wearing thin.”