5 striking VIDEOS that reveal the violence & compassion of France’s Yellow Vest protests
A shirtless man battling a water cannon; a cadre of riot cops beating a curled up demonstrator; the City of Lights awash in flames – these are the images that have shocked the world after nearly three weeks of protests in France.
The upheaval over soaring fuel prices has spread across the country, with the French government mulling the suspension of a fuel tax in order to placate the Yellow Vest protesters. Videos of the demonstrations, which began in mid-November, have captured both the extreme violence and acts of compassion that have emerged from the ongoing unrest.
Shirtless ‘piano man’ stares down a water cannon
Ironically, one of the heroes to emerge from the Yellow Vest protests is a vest-less (and shirtless) man who took on a water cannon.
As demonstrations heated up in Paris on November 24, one protester decided to exchange his vest for a pair of swimming goggles. A video of the shirtless Frenchman bravely enduring a thorough soaking from a water cannon gained notoriety, after what appeared to be a piano rolled through the already-dramatic scene. Actually, the wheeled wooden object turned out to be an old desk, but the scene still looked like it was lifted from an artsy fartsy French film.
Violence averted after cops remove helmets
The protests have not been devoid of compassion, however.
In the town of Pau, in southwestern France, police found a way to peacefully disperse protesters.
Footage posted on social media over the weekend shows a group of about two dozen police officers in riot gear removing their helmets while standing just meters away from demonstrators who were reportedly preparing to storm town hall. The crowd welcomed the peace gesture by applauding the police and singing the French national anthem.
Riot police curb-stomp a protester
Unfortunately not all of the videos to emerge from the protests are so whimsical or heart-warming. Footage purportedly taken at Rue de Berri, Paris – about a half a mile from the Arc de Triomphe – on Saturday shows a cowering protester being beaten by around ten riot cops.
Riot Police forces brutally beat an unarmed demonstrator in Paris. pic.twitter.com/8Un4jBdMgP— illusigram (@illusigram) December 2, 2018
In the video, the demonstrator is thrust to the ground by two officers, who then begin to kick and hit the curled-up man. Several other policemen then join in, using their batons and feet to beat the protester.
A particularly gripping video, shot from a balcony by an onlooker, reveals the combat-like intensity of the clashes between the Yellow Vests and riot police. The footage shows a group of policemen attempting to stop the advance of a crowd of protesters.
At first, only a few demonstrators engage the cops. However, the mob of Yellow Vests quickly rallies and completely overwhelms the group of police. With the cops making a hasty retreat, more protesters swarm in from a side street, hurling objects as they close in on the police. With projectiles being thrown in all directions, the onlooker abruptly pulls the camera away and begins to shout.
Rekindling France’s revolutionary spirit?
A standoff at the Arc de Triomphe led some to draw parallels between the Yellow Vest protests and France’s revolutionary past. Footage of the encounter between protesters and riot police near the iconic monument shows a man kneeling in front of the arch, with his hands stretched out.
He is then joined by another demonstrator, clad in a yellow vest, who waves two French flags as he stands behind the kneeling man. The display of flag-waving fearlessness was seen as some as a modern-day rendition of Eugene Delacroix’s classic revolutionary painting, ‘Liberty Leading the People’.
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