French Banks Call For End To ‘Yellow Vest’ Violence

Women march with balloons during a rally of the Women’s Yellow Vest protest movement (Femmes Gilets jaunes) near Place de la Bastille in Paris on January 6, 2019. France’s “yellow vest” protesters were back on the streets again on January 5 as a government spokesman denounced those still protesting as hard-liners who wanted only to bring down the government.
Bertrand GUAY / AFP

 

French banks called Saturday for an end to violence against branches, cash machines and personnel as the country braced for a 20th day of “yellow vest” protests.

Since the “yellow vest” anti-government protests began in November, more than 760 banks have suffered damage.

“It is time for all to condemn acts committed against banks,” the French banking federation’s executive committee said in comments published in the daily Le Monde.

“Yellow vest” demonstrations are expected Saturday in several French cities despite bans in hotspots such as the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris and the centre of Bordeaux.

Banks have often been the targets of vandalism and arson during the protests, and last week 11 people were injured when a Banque Tarneaud branch was set on fire near the Champs Elysees.

“We must quickly put a stop to this unbridled and unjustified violence,” the federation said.

It called for order to be restored “so that our colleagues and shop owners can work safely” and meet their clients needs.

The call was echoed by the police union Alliance, which told AFP Saturday its members “were fed up” with critics that sought to blame them for the violence.

“Our duty is to maintain public peace, even if that sometimes means restoring public order,” Alliance secretary-general Frederic Lagache said.

The banking federation’s executive committee comprises the bosses of six large French banks; BPCE, BNP Paribas, Credit Mutuel, Banque Postale, Credit Agricole and Societe Generale.

“For a little more than four months, hundreds of local branches that are essential links in local life… have been targeted, vandalised, pillaged and burned, and bank officers physically threatened,” the federation said.

With taxes a key trigger in the initial protests, it said French banks were the primary contributor to fiscal revenues, paying 644 euros ($720) for each 1,000 euros in net profit, excluding social charges.

France counts 37,000 bank branches and the sector employs more than 360,000 people.

Paris: New Year’s Eve Bash To Hold Despite ‘Yellow Vest Protest’

Yellow vest member Vincent installs a sign on the roundabout (rond point) next to a tent where people can write their demands (in French “Cahier de doleances”) in Cagnes sur Mer,
VALERY HACHE / AFP

New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Champs-Elysees in Paris will go ahead despite plans for another “yellow vest” anti-government protest on the famed avenue, city officials said on Thursday.

Tens of thousands of tourists and locals traditionally ring in the new year on the wide shopping boulevard, which ends with the Arc de Triomphe monument.

The Champs-Elysees has since last month been the epicenter of repeated violent protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government, with the Arc de Triomphe ransacked on December 1.

While the numbers turning out at protests across the country have dwindled dramatically, some “yellow vests” have called online for a New Year’s Eve protest on the Champs-Elysees.

On Facebook 7,400 people are listed as planning to attend what it calls a “festive and non-violent event”.

Paris officials said they would continue as planned with preparations for a fireworks display and sound and light show on the Champs-Elysees under the theme “fraternity”.

The avenue is a regular gathering point for national celebrations such as Bastille Day, the Tour de France and France’s victory this summer in the football World Cup.

But on recent Saturdays, it has been the scene of violent clashes between riot police and “yellow vest” protesters who accuse Macron of favoring the rich with his policies.

The movement sprang up online in October and spiraled into the worst crisis of Macron’s presidency, with tens of thousands blocking roads and protesting across France.

Macron sought to defuse the crisis in mid-December by announcing a 10 billion euro ($11.4 billion) package of measures to help pensioners and low-paid workers.

Since then the “yellow vests” have been split between moderates willing to engage in dialogue with the government and others intent on remaining at the barricades.