France's Yellow Vests Bring Their Grievances to Paris, Again

(Bloomberg) -- France’s yellow-vest protesters converged on Paris for another Saturday to express a range of grievances from frustration about a lack of purchasing power to anger at President Emmanuel Macron, perceived as arrogant and out of touch.

“Macron was elected because people voted against Le Pen, not for him,” said Raymond Ruis, a 53-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative, in reference to nationalist leader Marine Le Pen. “He never had legitimacy, certainly not to do the purge he’s put us through, he simply has to go,” said Ruis, standing on the Champs-Elysees avenue.

France's Yellow Vests Bring Their Grievances to Paris, Again
France's Yellow Vests Bring Their Grievances to Paris, Again

The day of protests started off in relative calm before tempers escalated in the afternoon, though violence against property and security forces was less extensive than a week ago. About 4 p.m., some of the people facing riot police no longer donned yellow vests that have become a symbol of the frustration of a middle class having trouble making ends meet.

To diffuse the tensions, Macron plans to announce policies to appeal to the center-left base, Le Monde reported, citing unnamed sources.

Macron has mostly avoided the spotlight since returning from the G20 in Argentina, realizing that his persona could fuel unrest. The president is discussing potential scenarios to reorient his program within the limits of France’s strained public finances, Le Monde says.

Wage Hikes

Macron is considering pushing companies to raise salaries and give tax-incentivized bonuses, according to the paper.

In eastern Paris, a quiet Saturday morning prevailed, with young families visiting coffee shops and bookstores and mostly staying close to home, reluctant to risk wandering into any clashes between protesters and police.

France's Yellow Vests Bring Their Grievances to Paris, Again

Even in more residential zones the calm was often disrupted. With almost 40 Paris metro stations closed near national monuments and the posh shopping districts targeted by previous demonstrations, groups of protesters looking to get to the center of Paris began to pop up in neighborhoods.

Near the Republique square, a group of Yellow Vests marched off into a street of bicycle repair shops and vegetable markets, waving flags and shouting “Macron resign.” On nearby streets, some shops or bars displayed the vests in their windows.

Banks Boarded Up

With banks including HSBC and Societe Generale having boarded up their branches, a woman near Republique complained: “It’s just not fair to do this to everyone.”

While Macron’s government has reversed its plan to increase fuel taxes, one of the measures that sparked the yellow-vest movement, for some protesters in Paris it wasn’t enough.

“Politics no long represents the people,” said Khu, a 27-year-old computer engineer on the Champs-Elysees playing the Italian partisan song “Bella Ciao” via a megaphone. He declined to give his full name. He said he’s happy about French plans to tax Internet companies, but wants more. “We need to come up with new systems. This is way beyond economic demands.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.