A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Mad at Macron

Since his election in May 2016, French President Emmanuel Macron's popularity has fallen steadily thanks to unpopular financial policies, such as ending a wealth tax, and his public manner, which many see as aloof and arrogant. But it was his planned fuel-tax hike, an environmental measure, that really kicked things off. An online video saying Macron is "hounding drivers" goes viral in October.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Nationwide protests

Online outrage is soon transferred to France's streets as more than 290,000 demonstrators don the high-visibility vests that drivers are required by law to keep in their cars. They block roads nationwide. The protests, coordinated via social media, have no structural organization, lack visible leadership and disavow union or party ties. At least one person is killed and more than 150 are arrested.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Clashes and destruction

The Macron government says it won't back down, and further protests are scheduled. On November 24, some 100,000 people protest nationwide, with 8,000 in Paris, where violence and destruction breaks out. Police clash with protesters on the Champs-Elysees (above), using water canon and tear gas. Over €1 million ($1.1 million) in damage is reported.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Cracking under pressure

The "yellow vest" protests are a massive problem for Macron. He initially refuses to budge on the fuel tax, then proposes adjustment in case of rising oil costs. Not satisfied, protesters hit French streets again on December 1, with violence and vandalism erupting in Paris. Macron calls a crisis meeting the next day and on December 5, amid threats of more protests, Macron ditches the fuel tax.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Paris on lockdown

Macron, however, refuses to reinstitute the wealth tax and dismisses protesters' calls for his resignation. The "yellow vests" defy easy categorization, as protesters include both far-left and far-right supporters who opposed Macron's presidency bid. On December 8, nationwide violent protests take place again. Armored vehicles roll down Paris streets as much of the city goes on lockdown.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Speech to the nation

On December 10, Macron responds to the 4-week-old protests with a televised speech to the nation from the Elysee Palace. More than 21 million viewers tune in as Macron strikes a conciliatory tone, saying he accepts his "share of responsibility" for the crisis. He introduces new financial measures, including a minimum-wage hike, tax-free overtime pay and tax exemptions for low-income retirees.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Neighboring discontent

In the meantime, the "yellow vest" protests jump beyond France's borders to other countries. In Belgium, demonstrators expressed anger over high taxes and food prices, as well as low wages and pensions. Anti-riot police responded with water cannon after protesters threw rocks at the prime minister's office. In Germany, protesters also turned out in Berlin and Munich.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

NYE calm

Protesters in France continue into late December, though turnout numbers fall. That doesn't discourage unofficial but high-profile protest leaders, who use social media to encourage continued demonstrations. On New Year's Eve, many revelers wear yellow vests as they take part in peaceful, "festive" gatherings in Paris.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

No end in 2019

Any hopes for calm in the new year were quickly dashed when on January 5 a fresh round of nationwide protests saw some 50,000 take part, an increase in turnout after the holiday lull but less than initial December gatherings. In Paris, some protesters clashed with police, setting fire to motorcycles and storming government buildings. Macron condemned the violence, saying, "Justice will be done."

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

'Reclaiming' yellow vest protests

Several hundred women wearing yellow vests marched through Paris on January 6 in an effort to restore a peaceful image to the "yellow vest" protests. At one point during the march, the women protesters fell to their knees in a minute of silence for the 10 people killed and many others injured since the start of the movement.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

'Grand debate'

In response to the "yellow vest" protests, Macron has begun a series of town hall discussions where he said he would hear the concerns of the French. His first was on January 15 in the northern town of Grand Bourgtheroulde, where around 600 mayors from the Normandy region gathered to raise complaints from their constituents.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Rubber bullets do damage, too

Prominent activist Jerome Rodrigues was injured in a confrontation on January 26. Rodrigues said he was hit in the eye by a police rubber bullet, an anti-riot weapon that has become highly controversial in France. The incident led to public outrage and was one of many severe injuries that protest groups blamed on the rubber bullets.

A timeline of France's 'yellow vest' protests

Court rules rubber bullets fair game

Following numerous injuries and outcry from the left-wing CGT trade union and the French Human Rights League, top French legal authority Council of State (Conseil d'Etat) refused on February 1 ban police from using the "sub-lethal" Defense Ball Launchers (LBDs) . The court said the risk of violence at the demonstrations made it "necessary to allow security forces to use these weapons."

French President Emmanuel Macron's concessions to protesters have not been enough to end demonstrations replete with violence and vandalism. DW takes a look at the chronology of the protests shaking France's streets.