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  • The movement that began in France mid-November has expanded beyond the nation

    The movement that began in France mid-November has expanded beyond the nation's borders. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 December 2018

The symbol of the yellow vest, worn by demonstrators in France, has been spotted in protests across Europe and as far away as Iraq.

As the fourth wave of "Yellow Vest" demonstrations erupts across France to protest high living costs and President Emmanuel Macron's anti-working class policies, the movement’s influence is spreading across Europe and even the Middle East.

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In Belgium, a movement inspired by the "gilets jaunes", or yellow vests has been growing in the last month, as people express their grievances over the cost of living and demand Belgium's center-right coalition government be removed. Their national election is due next May.

Police in Brussels detained more than 400 people Saturday, after demonstrators in yellow vests threw rocks and damaged shops and cars as they attempted to reach the European Union and Belgian government's headquarters.

Riot squads used water cannons and tear gas to keep a crowd of around 1,000 people from reaching the buildings. It is the second instance of violence of this kind in the Belgian capital in eight days.

Riot squads used water cannons and tear gas to keep a crowd, of what police estimate to have been 1,000 people, from reaching the buildings. It is the second instance of violence of this kind in the Belgian capital in eight days.

Protesters in Brussels wearing yellow vests faced off with police in riot gear Saturday. | Source: Reuters

Inequalities in Europe are deepening and the European Union has increasingly been used to force the application of austerity measures despite high social costs. 

Other countries, such as Serbia, Hungary, Spain, Germany, and Iraq, have also witnessed the movement’s influence.

In Iraq, where similar vests had been used as a symbol of unity among protesters in 2015, 100 protesters reportedly stormed Governor Asaad al-Eidani’s office in Basra Tuesday to demand access to basic services, like water and electricity.

That same day in Serbia, an opposition member wore the vest in Parliament Tuesday to protest high fuel costs just as France’s President Emmanuel Macron delayed his trip to the country amidst unrest back home.

France’s so-far leaderless movement began on Nov. 17 to highlight the squeeze on household spending brought about by Macron’s fuel taxes. It has since evolved to encompass grievances over social inequalities and what many are calling "fiscal  injustice" in France.

After weeks of relentless social protest against the government's fuel tax increase, France's prime minister announced a suspension of the tax in an attempt to demobilize protesters and quell dissent. However, the movement is no longer about motorists and fuel. Now, students, pensioners, workers, and regular citizens are rebelling against an economic model that favors the few over the many.


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