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How the ‘yellow vests’ are planning to block France’s roads on Saturday

Protesters calling themselves the 'gilets jaunes' (yellow vests) are due to block roads and cause traffic chaos in France on Saturday November 17th in a show of anger over rising fuel prices and taxes. Here's a look at exactly what they've got in store for the country's roads.

How the 'yellow vests' are planning to block France's roads on Saturday
Anti-riot policemen evacuate protesters wearing yellow jackets ("gilets jaunes") during a protest against the rising of the fuel and oil prices. Photo: AFP

It looks like Saturday November 17th is a day to stay off the roads in France if you possibly can as the so-called “yellow vest” protesters aim to demonstrate their anger over rising fuel cost and taxes by blockading roads, bringing traffic all over the country to a standstill.

The protests have come to symbolise a division between France's governing elite in Paris, namely French President Emmanuel Macron, and the country's rural poor who are the hit hardest by increased prices as they rely heavily on cars to get around. 
 
In a video that went viral a hypnotherapist from Brittany Jacline Mouraud said: “In a democracy, we are the bosses and they [the politicians] are the employees, they should not forget it “.
 
A map created by the organisers behind the protests which you can view here shows where in France the disruption is planned and has been viewed 15 million times according to reports in the French press. 
 
And going by the Facebook pages that have been created for some of the individual protests, the scale of the disruption could be massive, with thousands of people promising to attend some of the blockades. 
 
In Dordogne the prefecture is warning motorists to stay off the roads unless it is absolutely necessary. Authorities in the department are also warning protesters that police will be out in force to keep roads open for emergency vehicles.
 
It called on demonstrators to show “a spirit of responsibility and caution in the actions taken and to avoid any incident.”

 
But what exactly do the Gilets Jaunes have in store?
 
READ ALSO:

Fuel protests: Where are Saturday's planned road blocks in south west France?Photo: AFP

Blocking roundabouts
 
Many groups of  “yellow vests” have decided to focus on blocking the strategic roundabouts located on the outskirts of cities with trucks and trailers.
 
That means that access to city centres is expected to be difficult and car traffic could be slowed down considerably, even though the Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, has promised that the police will intervene in cases of “total blockage”.
 
The French police have the power to “evacuate by force any unauthorized protest that impedes traffic” and offenders could incur up to two years in prison and €4,500 in fines.
 
Blocking crossroads by… walking
 
Dozens of protesters are planning to block crossroads by repeatedly walking over the pedestrian crossings.
 
This is intended as a loophole to make the protests legal because priority is given to pedestrians at these crossings.
 
One local protest group joked that if anyone is asked what they're doing they should say they're “looking for a job”, referring to Macron's controversial advice to  an out of work gardener who told the president he couldn't find a job, with the French leader replying that he could find him a job simply by “crossing the road”. 
 
READ ALSO:
Furious French drivers to block roads in fuel price protest, but are they right to?Photo: AFP
 
Filtered road blocks
 
According to the groups, in many places the gilets jaunes will set up filtered road blocks, allowing a certain number of cars to pass through every so often. 
 
Even though this is less extreme than the policy of blocking everything which some have mooted, it still doesn't sound like great news for drivers. 
 
For example in the town of Epernay in the Marne department, where the yellow vests initially said they would “block everything” they are now planning filtered road blocks that will allow one car to pass every hour.
 
Similarly in the northern city of Reims they have said they will block certain roads completely for periods of 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of letting cars through throughout the day, according to a spokesperson for this group who warned that they could “firm up the blocks as and when”. 
 
Airports, railways, ports
 
After November 17th some of the national yellow vests organisers have said they are preparing to block airports, borders, ports, railways and refineries so the disruption could last a lot longer than just one day. 
 
Among the airports which have been pinpointed for blockading are Beauvais airport outside Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse. 
 
On top of that Mont Blanc Tunnel, which links the French Alps with Geneva and Turin is set to be blocked, as well as fuel depots and refineries for example the one at Fos-sur-Mer in southern France. 
 
Organiser Ghislain Coutard said: “We want to block exports, that kind of thing, because we think that Emmanuel Macron will react if Germany and other countries put pressure on him, whereas if it stays only inside [France], he will have nothing to do with it.”
 
The map below shows where these so-called “strategic blocks” have been planned. 
 
READ ALSO:
 
Motorways
 
No doubt much to the dismay of anyone with a long journey ahead of them in France this weekend, some of the yellow vest groups are planning go-slow operations on motorways particularly around tolls (peages). 
 
Among the places where this has been planned is around the city of Bordeaux in the south west of France where protesters say they want to block the toll station in Virsac and Pont d'Aquitaine. 
 
Meanwhile outside Antibes on the French Riviera, one of the mobilized groups will launch “a go-slow operation around the toll”.
 
And around the port city of Caen Normandy, a big operation is planned, consisting of “blocking and filtering traffic at the Dozulé toll.
 
Paris
 
Even the French capital won't be able to escape the yellow vests. 
 
In fact, one of the most anticipated protests is the go-slow operation planned on the Paris ring road the périphérique , which is expected to be followed by a march in the direction of the Elysée Palace, the official residence of the president. 
 
A giant BBQ
 
More leisurely protesters might like to go to Sarrebourg in the east of France where a giant BBQ and food trucks will be set up on the N4 (see photo below). 
 
 
When will they start?
 
Most of the protests are due to start before 8 am on Saturday November 17th so that they are in place before shops open in a bid to slow down the economy. 
 
Some supermarkets in areas where the protests are expected to be biggest are planning exceptional closures on Saturday to avoid clashes between customers and yellow vests. 
 
Similarly some groups have called on their supporters to limit their consumption of fuel, tobacco and alcohol to stop the government benefiting from the taxes on these products.
 
And how long will they last?
 
This is uncertain and plans currently vary from group to group. 
 
For example in some places such as the town of Brignoles in the south east, protesters are planning to block the toll road in the morning but there are no plans for the afternoon and the group's leader has said they will “play it by ear”. 
 
While in other places the yellow vests are planning to stay in place at least until after the shops shut and in some places the protests are set to last as late as midnight.
 
“The goal is to last, and as long as Macron will not play according to our rules, we will not stop,” yellow vest organiser Christophe Torrent told the French press.

 
What about ambulances?
 
Organisers have insisted that none of the protests will impede ambulances or other emergency vehicles for which they plan to reserve lanes.
 
On Wednesday French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that road blocks “would jeopardize the safety of the French people” and that the government would take the “necessary measures” to prevent this happening. 
 
 
Photo: AFP
 
Safety warnings
 
The Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner has warned those planning to protest that some may die or be injured during the protests.
 
“It will not be the State that will be responsible, it will be the person who caused the accident who will have no insurance, because it will not cover someone who has blocked a road.” 
 
However the best-organised protests have appointed security representatives for each blocking point and their responsibility will be to communicate with the local leader of the movement, who will be in direct contact with the authorities.
 
“Keep in mind that this movement is peaceful, we want a demonstration by the book and not by force,” said the organiser of the Reims protest.
 
Another organiser Maxime Nicolle said: “Our demonstration is 100 percent pacifist, we will evacuate the troublemakers and we will not hesitate to send them to the CRS (riot police officers).” 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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