The Yellow Vest protests in France are marking their first anniversary on Sunday with participation far below the demonstrations’ height.
The protests started on Nov. 17, 2018 in reaction to rising fuel costs and economic injustice, but later spiraled into deadly anti-government riots.
The protesters decided to use yellow vests, part of the standard safety kit in French cars, to make their members more easily visible.
The first days of the movement drew large crowds throughout France, with official estimates running around 300,000.
The movement also sparked Yellow Vest-type protests in other countries, but they were mainly centered in France.
Representatives of the movement also competed in the European Parliament elections this May but with little success, garnering only about 0.54% of the vote.
Over months of protests, France’s Yellow Vest movement gained momentum and scored some wins from the government — most notably France’s cancellation of the fuel tax hike, the original impetus for the demonstrations — but in the long run, it faced a number of problems, according to an analyst.
Pollyanna Ruiz, an expert on media at the U.K.’s University of Sussex, told Anadolu Agency that the Yellow Vest movement did not spread far beyond its core group because its demonstrations were formed by very specific dynamics.
Ruiz said a lack of leadership and various ideologies hampered the movement.
She said the movement brought the left and right together in an uneasily overlapping space.
“Their ability to communicate beyond the specifics of this particular fuel tax or that particular speed restriction is limited rather than extended by the plurality of voices,” Ruiz added.
Earlier this month, around 600 Yellow Vests from all over France met in the southern city of Montpellier to discuss the movement’s future and plans for its first anniversary.
Even if their momentum dwindled, the Yellow Vests left their mark on history and especially on French President Emmanuel Macron, who was sharply criticized by the protesters and was pressured to resign.
The protests left 11 people dead and more than 4,000 injured, including protesters and the police, according to the French government.
Activists claim that 24 protesters lost an eye and five lost a hand.
At least some 8,400 people have been arrested since the beginning of Yellow Vest protests, and about 2,000 were remanded into custody.
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