The Yellow Vest Movement is a populist, grassroots political movement for economic justice that started in France in November 2018. Since its start, the Yellow Vests have been protesting every Saturday all over France, in both large cities like Paris and in small communities. Though the movement initially began relatively peaceful, it has since then escalated to acts of public disruption, illegal misconduct and sometimes, violence especially in Paris. Though the French government and the police force are doing their very best to contain the protests, it is still important to know how to stay safe during these protests.
Below are our top tips on how to stay safe and still enjoy your day in Paris during the Yellow Vest protests. We will update this article with the latest news about the Yellow Vest protests weekly. Read more to be informed about what is set to happen on May 1st in Paris.
Things to know about the Yellow Vest Movement
Who are Yellow Vest protesters?
The term ‘yellow vest‘ originates from its direct French translation of ‘gilet jaune‘ which is the safety vest that motorists in France are required to have with them at all times. The movement started in November 2018 with French motorists from rural areas who were protesting against an increase in fuel taxes. Since the protests, the said fuel tax increase has been held off. Despite this, no resolution has yet been reached as the Yellow Vests have also called for the Macron government to lower fuel taxes, reintroduce taxation on wealth, increase the mininum wage, and implement Citizens’ initiative referendums.
When and where do they occur?
Although the number of people at recent protests has shrunk dramatically from the estimated 284,000 when protests began in November, the movement is still ongoing. Marches and protests still happen every Saturday in Paris and in several parts of the country like in Strasbourg, Rennes, Toulouse and Marseille.
An even larger round of protests are expected on May 1st, 2019. More popularly called around the world as May Day, the national holiday of May 1st has always been a day full of protests from various groups advocating for different causes. But because of the still ongoing Yellow Vest movement, several places in France, most especially Paris, are put on high-alert. Therefore we advise everyone who will be in the city to stay vigilant.
Things to do during a Yellow Vest protest
#1 avoid the Champs-Elysées area
Our very first advice is to avoid, at all costs, Avenue Champs-Elysées and its surrounding areas. That means not just the main avenue but the entire 8th arrondissement of the city. As tempting as it may be to go to the Arc de Triomphe which is at the end of the avenue for a souvenir photo, we highly advise against it. You are much better off to visit the famous street on a weekday (except May 1st).
Here is a map of the area you should avoid:
#2 avoid Metro Line 1 and Line 13
Line 1 of Paris’ extensive metro system is one of the most densely-packed metro lines in the city. This line takes passengers across Paris from east to west while stopping at the busiest transport hubs along the way. On top of this reason, Line 1 also takes passengers to the most visited tourist attractions in the city like Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysées, Tuileries Garden, and the Louvre Museum. Line 1 also stops at Place de la Bastille which is one of the public squares where large-scale protests are held. In an effort to avoid chaos and to restrict the number of Yellow Vest protesters, the RATP limits the stations on Line 1 served during a Yellow Vest protest. See below for the stations that closed during a Yellow Vest protest in Paris.
Line 13 is also considered to be one of Paris’ busiest metro lines. In previous Saturdays where violent protests have been held, metro stations Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau, Invalides, Miromesnil and Varenne were closed thus limiting the line’s service. The same, if not more, stations on Line 13 are expected to be closed for the upcoming protests including the station Assemblée Nationale.
#3 stay away from the main squares in Paris
République, Place de la Bastille, Place d’Italie and Place de l’Opéra are the biggest and most popular public squares in Paris. These squares are also where large-scale protests are held by several organized groups in France. Though protests are usually held in a peaceful way, the Yellow Vest protests are different because a lot of rioters and hard-core agitators have hijacked the movement for their own causes. These rioters or ‘casseurs’ are those seen on the news breaking, burning, and pillaging public and private property in parts of the city, especially those nearby the main squares.
#4 get real time updates
We urge travellers to Paris to follow the official Twitter accounts of the Prefecture de Police @prefpolice, Paris’ Police force and the RATP @RATPgroup, Paris’ official transport authority. For updates on Line 1, please follow the official Ligne 1 RATP account @Ligne1_RATP. For direct questions to RATP, you can tweet at them @ClientsRATP. These accounts update their followers about which areas will be inaccessible to the public as well as which metro stations will be closed during protests. They also often release a press statement a day before the protests are held to give a heads up to everyone. You may also visit RATP’s official website for updated traffic information.
#5 Paris Attractions to avoid on a Yellow Vests protests day
– Arc de Triomphe
– Tour Eiffel
– Paris National Opera House
– Bastille Opera House
These places should not be on your list of attractions to visit on a day of Yellow Vest protests day. Moreover, the northern part of Le Marais between Bastille Square and République Square should be avoid on a protest day.
#6 What you should do instead on a Yellow Vests protests day
We recommend travellers to plan a visit to Montmartre or to the Southern part of Le Marais which are always more quiet. The streets in these areas are narrow and thus inconvenient for protests.
Another great idea would be going out of town to Giverny, Versailles or Vaux-le-Vicomte Castle. These places are great alternatives to enjoying your day to the fullest without worrying about rioters. However, plan to leave early in the morning (around 9am) and to come back by the end of the afternoon. A day out to Disneyland could be a good idea as well but only if you plan to get there using public transportation. Yellow Vest protesters have blocked the access to the theme park’s main parking space several timse since the beginning of the movement in November.
May 1st schedule of protests in Paris
– Yellow Vest protesters are scheduled to gather at 10:00 in the morning at the Pantheon and march down to Montparnasse at 2:00 in the afternoon.
– There will be a separate march against Climate Change scheduled to start from 2:30 PM at Montparnasse.
– France’s biggest worker’s union have called on protesters to gather at Montparnasse on May 1st. The demonstrations will take place at Boulevards de Port-Royal, Boulevard Saint-Marc, Boulevard de L’Hopital and all the way to Place d’Italie.
– An organized protest against racism will be held at Pont du Carrousel
***As of the April 29, 2019, the Paris Prefecture de Police have already issued a statement urging all commercial establishments who will be in the protest areas to close their shops and to take safety measures to protect from destruction and looting.