What is France’s ‘red scarves’ movement?

New group takes to the streets to protest against ‘yellow vest’ violence

Red scarves protest
Members of the red scarves movement in Paris on Sunday
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Thousands of people joined a march in Paris on Sunday to protest against the actions of the anti-government “yellow vest” movement.

The so-called red scarves, or foulards rouges, are demanding an end to the violence witnessed at yellow vest (gilets jaunes) rallies.

The unrest began with fuel tax protests in November but now “embraces wider discontent with President Emmanuel Macron, and has seen some of the most serious street violence in Paris since 1968”, says the BBC.

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In an interview with regional French newspaper Le Dauphine Libere, red scarves founder John Werner said he had created the group because French “citizens are being penalised every day by the yellow vests’ methods”.

A number of people have posted messages on the red scarves website in which they claim to have been “verbally abused for not wearing the same reflective yellow west that the anti-government protesters wear”, reports France 24.

Many say they’ve been “forced to sign petitions calling for President Emmanuel Macron’s resignation in order to get through roadblocks on their way to work”, while others have been accused of “belonging to the bourgeoisie for not buying into the yellow vests demands”, the Paris-based news site continues.

The red scarves joined forces with another group, the blue vests, in Paris on Sunday to stage their first anti-yellow vest protest, which was attended by around 10,000 people.

“We denounce the insurrectional climate installed by the yellow vests. We also reject the threats and constant verbal abuse [suffered by non-yellow vests],” the groups said in their joint manifesto.

Many protesters at the red scarves rally said that while they were not against “yellow vest” demands for greater help for France’s poor, they “were sick of the clashes and destruction that have marked protests”, reports The Local.

A nursing manager who gave her name as Marie-Line told the news site she believed the yellow vests had just cause to “grumble” but added that “this verbal and physical violence must stop”.

Speaking to French broadcaster RFI, red scarves representative Alex Brun said: “People are tired of the roadblocks. They are bad for business, and children are prevented from getting to school on time.”

Brun described the red scarves as “an apolitical citizens’ movement” and said the best way to resolve problems caused by the yellow vests was to take part in Macron’s town-hall meetings, rather than confronting protesters on the street.

Sunday’s march was more than double the size of the yellow vest demonstration in Paris a day earlier, when some 4,000 people came out to protest against Macron.

Yellow vest numbers have ebbed in recent weeks, after the president “announced a series of policy climbdowns and launched a two-month consultation to allow people to vent their anger”, says the BBC.

According to the French Interior Ministry, an estimated 69,000 people nationwide took part in the 11th consecutive weekend of yellow-vest protests - about 15,000 fewer than the previous weekend.

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