Viral video shows police brutality against ‘Yellow Vest’ mass protest in Paris

Police attack protesters in Paris on 18 January 2020

A viral video shows police in Paris attacking a crowd of protesters with batons yesterday, as thousands of ‘Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) converged on the capital:

The video has been viewed by over 20,000 people.


The Gilets Jaunes uprising is named after the yellow hi-vis jackets that are a trademark of the movement. Gilets Jaunes supporters have been taking over streets all over France since November 2018. The movement is perhaps best known internationally for its massive demonstrations in Paris, but demonstrations are also held in other French cities and even villages on a weekly basis.

Read on...

The protest on Saturday 19 January was dubbed #Acte62 (Chapter 62), as this is the 62nd consecutive Saturday of protests.

The Gilets Jaunes are demanding the resignation of French president Emmanuel Macron. But the movement’s demands are far more diverse than that. In June 2019 Paul Cudenec, an English anarchist living in France, told The Canary:

To start with, the Gilets Jaunes’ protests were sparked by a rise in diesel fuel prices, so it came across as some kind of vaguely right-wing populist movement. But it quickly became clear that this was not the case and that there was general opposition to social injustice behind it. In fact, most of those taking part were new to protesting and more or less unpolitical.

The police violence that the Gilets Jaunes have faced has motivated some protesters to keep on demonstrating.

Demonstrators were joined yesterday by trade-unionists. French public-sector and transport workers are angry at Macron’s program of reforms. Ed Sykes wrote in The Canary in December 2019:

Public-sector workers fear Macron’s changes will force them to work longer and shrink their pensions. Some private-sector workers share their worries.

“Species are dying… Workers are on their knees”

A joint statement by some of the groups on the streets yesterday reads:

The results are simple: we are regressing at all levels. Except in matters of police surveillance and repression. But otherwise: nature and species are dying, pollution is increasing, life expectancy has started to stagnate, public services are on their knees and private workers are on their knees with increasingly precarious and poorly paid jobs.

Baton charges and arrests

Several more videos from yesterday show police charging at and arresting protesters:

Tear gas

One video taken from a Paris balcony shows police using tear gas against protesters. A police tear gas grenade appears to hit the person filming:

Protesters also reported that water cannons were used by police.

Media blackout

Several observers on Twitter pointed out the lack of media coverage of the protests:


Protesters fought back against police by hurling projectiles and building barricades. One video posted on Twitter shows cars lying on their sides and fires burning, as police move in:

Police had to “rescue” president Macron when protesters forced their way into a Paris theatre after they reportedly found out that he was inside.

“The dustbin of history”

A statement, written by some of the groups protesting, states:

This is an opportunity to be huge in the street, to express our rejection of pension reforms and Macron’s world.

The pensions reform bill is due to be discussed by France’s Council of Ministers on 24 January. The authors of the statement conclude with the wish that both the reform bill and it’s authors will be consigned to the “dustbin of history“.

Featured image via screenshot

Get involved

Tom Anderson is part of the Shoal Collective, a cooperative producing writing for social justice and a world beyond capitalism. Twitter: @shoalcollective

  • Check out the ‘Paris struggles’ website (in French)
  • Read this article in ROAR Magazine about the Gilets Jaunes
  • Read Glen Black’s article in The Canary about the Gilets Jaunes movement.


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  • Show Comments
    1. France’s proud revolutionary ethos makes protest into an art form. It is excuse for protesters and gendarmes to engage in violence; in particular college students seem to regard aggressive protest a rite of passage. Presumably there are rules to the game adhered to by both sides.

      Perhaps, this time violence has gone beyond ‘acceptable’ bounds. That may reflect the deep seriousness, as perceived by many French folk, of the matters in dispute with the government. It’s not just students, or traditionally obstreperous farmers, this time. Normally biddable public servants, including firemen and police, have divided loyalties.

      Of greater interest than the regrettable violence is the manner in which British news media report the matter: more accurately, the manner in which they don’t report. France is in turmoil, this presumably still containable. No mention is made here but similar troubles in Hong Kong gleefully are reported. Indeed, at present, royal trivia conveniently are displacing mention of many global events of interest to those seeking to be well informed.

      Is the near blackout on news from France in response to British government edict? Probably not although Johnson’s cronies likely approve. It is against the interests of media barons and their associates for examples from France to encourage revolt against the excesses of neo-liberalism in the UK. The BBC, which ideally would know better, appears to go along with this; perhaps the BBC is pervaded by fear of Johnson/Trump inspired privatisation so that the likes of Murdoch, Branson, and other distributors of over-priced lowest common denominator crap don’t suffer ‘unfair’ competition.

      I get my world news from RT. Indeed, it is funded by the Russian government but I discern negligible effort to propagandise, rather than report, Russian foreign policy. RT’s English language service draws upon many people, journalists and others, of standing in the UK, USA, and elsewhere. They certainly are nobody’s puppets. It is plausible that RT’s broadcasting licence will be withdrawn here and in the USA. There may even be futile attempts to block online access too.

    2. France fighting for us all, if this Gov’t is successful in cutting back Pensions and Health care it will spread to other countries then another and another etc. until nothing is left, and we return to being Serfs and SLAVES

      1. They have to change the French pension system because (like Greece) too many people retire too early on too generous pensions. Great for them, but it is the younger generation who will have to fund their lifestyle: a younger generation already less well off than their pensioner forbears.
        They are not fighting against pension reform for you or anyone else: just for themselves.

    3. Don’t be fooled in thinking that this is only about the French, all Gov’ts except for a few want pensions, Health care, to go the way of the DODO bird and given totally to corporations to enrich themselves at everyone perils, your further point to Gov’ts can’t afford it is Bullshit as all they have to do is stop feeding their War machine across the globe and stop lowering taxes on the rich and their corporations.

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