VILLENEUVE-LA-GARENNE, France (AP) – With a yellow safety vest attached to her backpack, Mathilde Pouzet set out to Paris on…
VILLENEUVE-LA-GARENNE, France (AP) – With a yellow safety vest attached to her backpack, Mathilde Pouzet set out to Paris on November 17th for her first protest with a grassroots movement that is now shaking France.
She returned for the next two, forced tear gas and dodging violence. Three weeks later, she blocked a fuel store of the gas giant Total until dozens of police in the riolet cleaned out his small group.
Pouzet, a 43-year-old assistant in a public preschool, picks up and a handful of protesters from her working class town north of Paris are planning their next blockade.
“We have our strategy, but we are not army chief,” said Pouzet. “We are beginners.”
Pouzet, som lifts two children alone and is barely able to meet, among the French, including retirees, is passionate protesting against a government they say have forgotten the people while they are pandering to the rich.
The movement slowed down in November with blockades at strategic crossings around the country following a fuel tax migration that is part of President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to deny the nation from fossil fuels.
The movement is called “yellow vests” for the fluorescent safety vests required by law in each car and the protesters often do not.
Read more: Pictures show that the streets of Paris break out in protest and “extreme and never before seen violence”
The original protests may have been quite low in the beginning. Now, after a foul turnaround that has led to two violent weekends in the heart of Paris and four people die, the French state is in the midst of the most serious periods of unrest for decades.
The French authorities are trying to seize the residual citizen has stressed the right to protest – while preparing extraordinary security measures before Saturday’s demonstrations, including putting armored vehicles on the Paris streets.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, quoting inquiry reports, said Friday that “excited” individuals were expected to report to the crowd and clarified everything would be done to prevent a repetition of recent destruction and violence.
On Wednesday night, the government had withdrawn plans for the January tax levy in an attempt to address remaining citizens – three days before a rescued fourth protest in the French capital. But then the movement had become ballooned and radicalized and the requirements had multiplied.
Read more: For France’s yellow west deputy, the “gas tax is the top of the iceberg”
The concession is generally seen to be too late. Now France is bracing for more violence this weekend. The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum and countless shops will be closed on Saturday when security is tightened.
Pouzet has neither a car nor a driver’s license. But she had a moment of epiphany.
“I recognized myself as, yes, the girl who had been forgotten, the girl who struggles every day and struggling to try and get the least, the least to survive,” she said.
She said she decided to stop wearing a yellow vest because the movement is no longer about cars. Instead, she calls herself “an angry French woman”.
Pouzet is far from humble. She has had a stable job for 14 years, caring for children at a public preschool in a nearby city, with the staffing team.
She lives in a stone house in a working class town in the north of Paris. But she says she has about 200 euros (under 230 dollars) per month to feed her family and pay for surprise costs.
The rest of her monthly payroll check of 1,750 euros, after social security contributions have been deducted, goes to paying home loans, house bills, health insurance for her and her two children, 12 and 18, plus transport cards, school supplies and phones. She took out a bank loan to pay France’s annual “housing tax”.
“I was like a lot of people, went away,” she said, “tell yourself listen to them around you, fall in line, close your mouth and follow and laugh and carry it.”
Read more: Paris locks down the Eiffel Tower in anticipation of more violent conflicts between protesters and police
For her, the growing protest movement called “the world opened its eyes and came out of a slander” and “I saw that I was not alone. “
During a visit to her home, she often said tortured her way of becoming a protest, first alone in a local group. Like many others, it started on social networks like Facebook. Groups formed and other networks were committed. Two women arrived to plot the next action.
It is unclear how many people are in the movement, or support it. However, the speed at which actions and requirements are multiplied has wiped out Pouzet and weakened the government.
“This crisis is deep and it’s not just economic. It’s moral,” claims Pouzet.
The phenomenon began to incubate in mid-October, apparently affected by a video that went viral, posted by a woman in Brittany, Jaclin Mouraud. As a result, she gives macros a heavy lashing to affect new taxes and restrictions on cars needed for work – while adding a value added tax.
“Where is the leadership of France, Monsieur Macron?” Asks Mouraud.
For Pouzet, the “denied” macro “detonated” the crisis, but it was a long way to begin with a gradual loss of solidarity in French society.
“It is the poorest giving to the richest … We have the impression of being modern slaves,” she said.
Diversity of movement, with self-proclaimed spokesmen but no real leaders, has created a surprise for the government, which nobody agrees to negotiate. Inflection within the movement that obviously attracts radicals to the right and left has multiplied sources of potential danger.
Pouzet says she opposes the violence, but considers it inevitable if change is to come.
“The French people have reached the saturation point. The state is ironing us more and more year after year,” she said.
Now “people wake up … we wake up together let’s go.”
Milos Krivokapic contributed from Gennevilliers, France.