Paris – Act Four in the weekly “yellow vest” protests unfolded Saturday in Paris amid a now-familiar backdrop of tear gas and chants, but also brought further clarity on where the rage is headed: directly at President Emmanuel Macron.
What began as opposition against a carbon tax designed to curb climate change has morphed into a working-class revolt against Macron, who now faces the first major test of his presidency and whose approval ratings have plummeted to personal all-time lows.
The crowds on Saturday — several thousand demonstrators — appeared smaller than past weeks.
But the increased focus on Macron and his perceived elitist image point to deeper divisions in France that reach beyond the current protests and could become defining features of the opposition as Macron’s popularity slumps.
Chants of “Macron resign!” echoed along the grand Champs Élysées on Saturday as protesters decried him as the “president of the rich” who has ignored struggling regions around the country.
Remarkably, some of those in the crowd had backed Macron’s improbable campaign in 2017. But they now say they feel betrayed by an agenda they see as merely concerned with protecting the economic interests of the elite.
Last week, the protests reached a level of violence unseen since the student uprisings of 1968, with participants destroying shop windows across the capital and vandalizing national monuments, notably the Arc de Triomphe, an enduring symbol of the French Republic.
The movement has come to represent a deeply rooted social anger that has more to do with the personality of Macron than it does with any particular policy.