By on December 4, 2018

Despite everything  you’ve heard about road rage, motorists tend to be pretty meek — at least when it comes to government regulations, and particularly in Europe. They passively accept, and pay for, mandated safety and emissions regulations as well as for taxes on the fuel for their vehicles. Perhaps, though, they aren’t as passive as we think. For the past three weeks, France has erupted in massive protests and riots that are being called the Gilet Jaunes protests, demonstrations that are spreading to Belgium and the Netherlands, and those protests were spearheaded by motorists.

Gilet Jaunes is French for “yellow vests,” which many of the protesters are wearing as a statement against intrusive, expensive, and sometimes petty government regulations and taxes. (For the past decade, French motorists have been required by law to carry bright yellow/green safety vests in their vehicles and wear them in the case of a breakdown.)

Their immediate grievance was an increase in fuel prices, partly as a result of carbon taxes (both for transportation and heating purposes), though diesel fuel is seeing the largest increase. The protests have expanded to include other government regulations, particularly those that most heavily impact the middle class. While the new taxes were instituted by the previous government, French President Emmanuel Macron has been the primary target of the protesters’ rage. Protesters sang La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Some of the demonstrators literally called for Macron’s head, “La guillotine pour Macron,” they shouted.

In an opportunistic fashion, French nationalists on the right and Antifa members on the left have joined in the rioting, which has resulted in three fatalities, over 260 people injured (some of them innocent passersby), and over 400 arrested. More than 36,000 people protested in Paris on Saturday, causing Macron to cut short his stay at the G20 summit of international leaders in Argentina and return to France on Sunday. French interior minister, Christophe Castaner, said on Sunday that he would not rule out the president declaring a state of emergency. The rioting is the worst France has seen in decades.

The demonstrations have no formal leadership, but a group of 10 representatives of the protesters published a call for negotiations in a French weekly.

That concerns of motorists are at the center of the protest can be seen by their call for “immediate and unconditional freeze in the tax increase on fuel” and the cancellation of new, more rigorous vehicle inspection rules, which raises costs for drivers, particularly operators of privately owned vehicles whose expenses can’t be written off like vehicles owned by businesses. The protesters see the French government as favoring the well to do and elites. Members of the upper middle class in Europe often receive the use of company cars and aren’t as personally affected by the taxes and fees.

UPDATE: Le Monde is reporting that Macron’s government will announce a moratorium on the new taxes for three months. Apparently, this is not placating the Gilet Jaunes. Protest leader Christophe Chalençon said a temporary suspension of the taxes will not end the demonstrations, stating, “This is not going to send us back to our homes.”

Image source: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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25 Comments on “French Motorists Spark ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests and Riots Over Fuel Taxes and Regulations (UPDATE: New Green Taxes to Be Suspended)...”

  • avatar

    If Americans were this volatile, there would be no predatory speed and red light camera rackets. JCW, NMA.

    • 0 avatar

      Europeans put up with an awful lot before they finally reacted violently. There is still hope for the US that we’ll take a stand against the people conducting war on the middle class.

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Foley

        Agreed. As a libertarian and a clinger to fossil fuels, I find this civil unrest encouraging as hell.

      • 0 avatar


        The French are famous for rioting at the slighted provocation. I’m not sure where your theory is coming from.

        • 0 avatar

          Well, their top tax rate is about 45%, so they put up with that!

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, they did because they expected a lot in return from it. And they get it!

            But the green-weenie eco-frankian movement of climate change and carbon-tax was just too much of a farce to pull over the eyes of even the gullible French.

            This is going to set off all sorts of other protests and their gov’t has put a pause on the implementation of this new diesel-tax.

        • 0 avatar


          There are any number of possible and factual replies to this, but I suppose one difference would be if they succeed in removing the globalists who are busy replacing their population and surrendering their sovereignty. Usually the riots are perpetrated by the folks trying to stop the French from talking about what is being done to their country. Complain about violent Algerians? The ‘French’ Algerians step up the violence until the French shut up. Mob rule has played into the hands of the Macron-types, but this is a different mob. Antifa(because fascist was already taken) is trying to infiltrate and coopt this movement so it can be herded back onto the globalist plantation, but they may find the going treacherous.

    • 0 avatar

      @highdesertcat “green-weenie eco-frankian”

      Small, weak and timid, but also powerful and monstrous. Nothing like clear thinking.

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you.

        It had the desired effect I sought.

        The people of France acted out those same exact sentiments causing their government to put this farce-tax on hold, at least for a little while.

        But taxes WILL BE raised. Make no mistake about it. The gov’t of France is so deeply mired in this muddled green-thinking that they cannot allow another Waterloo.

        In fact, the gov’t is basically saying to their protesting masses, “Let them eat cake”.

        But the taxes will be implemented.

  • avatar

    Jaune = Yellow. Jeune = Young. Jeaune = Covfefe.

  • avatar

    I love it that the government made motorists carry the yellow vests that now serve to show their solidarity against the government. Maybe they should have governed less.

  • avatar

    Burn it all down; “green” taxes only impress those who are too cushioned and wealthy to not be affected by it, while ruining the middle class.

    From what I heard only 1/3 of the proposed tax increase was earmarked for environmental stuff anyway. We’re doing fine on emissions and pollution, why not go after something meaningful? We throw out half of the food we produce, fix that.

  • avatar

    They should reinstate the taxes, but scrap all of the speed limit reductions and instead institute increases in limits.

    Expensive fuel + high limits = return of sports cars and hot hatches.

  • avatar

    I’m starting a yellow vest protest against the Honda CR-V. Who’s with me?


  • avatar

    I expect a lot of the anger is the sudden switch from favoring and encouraging diesels to suddenly treating them as plague. I’d be a little pissed if I’d bought a car based on tax incentives which made it cheaper to run, then overnight it suddenly became more expensive just because some bureaucrats got their panties twisted by a bunch of alarmist enviro freaks.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not just an enviro thing. It’s a health epidemic that suddenly stopped being ignored. Now is that worse than pretending it wasn’t there in the first place?

  • avatar

    I have a close French friend and this how he explained this to me. The French oil company Total puts out 75% of the polluting gases in France yet they do not have to pay to clean up their act. instead, its the French citizen that has to foot the bill, by way of the new fuel tax, to pay for Total’s polluting. Its easy to see why they’re mad as hell – I would be too. Their government is crapping on the middle and poor classes just like here.

    • 0 avatar

      If you really believe this fantastical explanation of European fuel taxation, surely you realize that if Total was picking up the bill for the government then they’d still have to pass on the expense to consumers. Right?

      • 0 avatar

        “…if Total was picking up the bill for the government then they’d still have to pass on the expense to consumers. Right?”

        Well, they could try something radical, like instituting pollution controls at major pollution locations and paying for it out of their massive profits. I know, that’s crazy talk. But still, their EBITDA for 2017 was about 32 billion euros, so maybe…?

  • avatar

    Yeah, but how you can expect to have free universal health care and free college education without high taxes? Also you have to feed and take care of all those so called “migrants” (freeloaders in other words) who do not contribute to society.

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