Government spokesman evacuated in Act VIII of Yellow Vest protests in Paris

Yellow Vests in Paris on January 5, 2018.
Yellow Vests in Paris on January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

More than 50,000 people turned out for Act VIII of the yellow vest protests on Saturday.Although peaceful overall,  there were violent clashes in Paris and other big cities in the west France. In Paris, a government spokesperson had to be evacuated from his offices.


French government spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, had to be evacuated from his offices after protestors used a construction vehicle found in the street to ram the door to enter the government compound.

They also broke windows and smashed vehicles. Griveaux and his team escaped through a back door and into the gardens.

Yellow Vests and Griveaux

An eye witness told Le Parisien newspaper: “At 16h30 around 15 people, some dressed in black, others wearing yellow vests, forced the Ministry door with a construction vehicle. Once inside the courtyard, they smashed vehicles and then quickly headed off before the police arrived”.

It’s the first time this kind of intrusion has occurred since 1999 when farmers ransacked the Ministry of the environment.

Griveaux said it was “unacceptable”.

“When you attack a minister, a public, when you take your grievances out on an institution and a member of the government, an MP, an local official, it’s extremely serious,” he told BFM TV. “I wasn’t attacked, it’s the Republic.”

Other incidents occurred on boulevard Saint-Germain in the Latin Quarter, popular with tourists.

President Emmanuel Macron took to twitter to condemn the violence.

“Once again extreme violence was used against the Republic - its guardians, its representatives, its symbols. […] Justice will be done. Everyone must pull together to bring debate and dialogue.”

Sébastien Chenu, MP and spokesperson for the far right National Rally told France Info he unequivocally condemned the violence in all its forms.

“It has to stop. The state of chaos our country is slipping into must gradually stop”.

But he also blamed the government’s “incapacity to make concrete proposals to the French”.

Meanwhile Valérie Pecresse, head of the Ile de France region, and a member of the main opposition Republicains party said “nothing justified the violence” but that the yellow vest movement was not over because it was being “nourished by great disappointment over Emmanuel Macron and political power in general”.

Possible routes in Central Paris for Yellow Vests protest marches

Bring back the wealth tax

Macron’s government has scrapped the green fuel tax which initially sparked the yellow vest protests, and promised extra cash for minimum wage earners and tax cuts for pensioners. But he has so far refused to re-introduce the wealth tax (ISF) which he scrapped in January 2018.

This remains one of few common demands of yellow vest supporters. And according to a survey published in Sunday’s JDD newspaper 77% of French people are in favour of bringing it back.

While Macron is standing firm, the government remains more open and has promised to evaluate the effects of the reform and saying it “does not fear a debate” on the subject.

Building a political movement

The yellow vest movement was born on and continues to be coordinated via social media. But on Saturday the first “association gilets jaunes” was launched in the southern port city of Marseille. RFI’s correspondent Stephane Burgatt described it as “an initial attempt at structuring demonstrations and communications”.

Yellow Vest movement scene VIII

He told RFI “several hundred yellow vests held an organized meeting in the premises of La Provence daily paper while another group of yellow vests protested in front of the building, feeling they’d been excluded.

“I’m not a candidate of any kind,” one of the organisers Hoyt Shalinian explained when accused of politicising the movement. “Guys, we’re free! I have the right to open an association along with thousands of people who’re asking for it. If people don’t want to adhere to this movement, they don’t have to. We’re not saying we represent all the yellow vests in France, that would be impossible.”

Burgatt says that while the association was not founded with the aim of fielding candidates in the run up to the European elections in May, he’d been told that option was “not excluded” either.

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