'Yellow vest' riots spread to Belgium and Netherlands

More than 5,000 yellow vest rioters in Paris faced off against 8,000 police as violent demonstrations broke out for the fourth straight weekend. More than 1700 were arrested  and hundreds were injured as some of the richest sections of downtown Paris were once again the targets of protesters.

The media/government narrative that the protests were about a fuel tax hike fell apart on Saturday as the violence continued despite the government's rescinding of the fuel tax increase.

If anything, the protests were bigger.


French authorities said on Sunday they had arrested more than 1,700 people amid nationwide "yellow vest" anti-government protests the day before that caused widespread damage, particularly in the capital, Paris.

The Interior Ministry said a total of 1,220 of those arrested had been retained in custody.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said 135 people were injured in the Paris protests, after demonstrators clashed with tear-gas-wielding police. He estimated the number of protesters at 10,000 in Paris and 125,000 across the country.

Local media put the number of injured higher, at 264, including 39 security personnel. Some 89,000 police were deployed.

In Paris, cars were set on fire and store windows smashed, causing damage that city authorities said was much greater than that during similar protests on December 1.

"The sector affected by the incidents was much larger ...  With fewer barricades, there was much more dispersion, so many more places were impacted by violence," Paris' deputy mayor, Emmanuel Gregoire, told France Inter radio.

Clean-up operations on Sunday were complicated by fierce winds and rain that hit the capital overnight. Two major landmarks, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum, reopened after being shuttered the day before amid the protests.  

Violent protesters targeting national symbols is very, very bad news for France. It would be like ordinary Americans attacking the Washington Monument or Lincoln Memorial. France is sick and the government hasn't a clue how to effect a cure.

Meanwhile, the "fuel tax" protests spread to two other nations where the fuel tax is not an issue: Belgium and Netherlands

Associated Press:

The reasons for the protests are not entirely clear. Neither Belgium nor the Netherlands has proposed a hike in fuel tax — the catalyst for the massive and destructive demonstrations in France in recent weeks.

Instead, protesters appeared to hail at least in part from a populist movement that is angry at government policy in general and what it sees as the widening gulf between mainstream politicians and the voters who put them in power. Some in Belgium appeared intent only on confronting police.

Maybe this will give the media a clue:

In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters in the high-visibility vests that have become a symbol of the movement walked peacefully across the downtown Erasmus Bridge singing a song about the Netherlands and handing flowers to passers-by.

Sisters Beb and Ieneke Lambermont, aged 76 and 67 respectively, were among them.

“Our children are hard-working people but they have to pay taxes everywhere. You can’t get housing anymore. It is not going well in Dutch society,” Ieneke said. “The social welfare net we grew up with is gone,” she said.

“The government is not there for the people. It is there to protect its own interests,” she said.

Is there a warning for America in these sentiments? I think so. Since 2010, the parties have alternated between victory and defeat with the GOP winning in 2010, 2014, and 2016 while Democrats won in 2012 and 2018. Voters are searching for answers that the politicians aren't giving them. The frustration level is building and there is no consensus - no middle ground to find. It is either total victory or nothing.

Americans are generally slow to anger but one can sense a palpable unease in most of the country, from urban centers to the heartland. Meanwhile, government continues to grow and with the Democrats now in charge of the House, it is only going to get bigger.

Will the next economic downturn see Americans from both parties taking to the streets? I wouldn't rule it out at all.


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