London’s ‘yellow vest’ protests demand end to austerity

The march in the
capital copied rallies in France
The march in the capital copied rallies in France

HUNDREDS of demonstrators wearing yellow vests took to the streets of London last Saturday (12), in the largest protest yet in Britain copying the “yellow vest” protests in France.

Protesters marched through the centre of the capital before rallying in Trafalgar Square. They included two French activists involved in the demonstrations sweeping France since
mid-November who were invited by the organisers of the British event.

“We are here in support,” said Erick Simon, 61, one of the duo. “I think that the yellow vest movement in France is the same as the one that is growing in England… people are fed
up with poverty, injustice and social and financial injustice.”

The French protests began late last year over a proposed increase in fuel duties and soon turned violent. The leaderless movement appeared to be petering out at the end of 2018 but has since regained momentum, with weekly clashes in Paris and other French cities.

Last Saturday’s event, organised by the left-wing People’s Assembly group, saw mainstream opposition lawmakers join forces with several unions and other organisations focused on causes ranging from refugees to racism.

Addressing the crowd in Trafalgar Square, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said eight years of austerity under the ruling Conservatives was “tearing apart the very social
fabric” of Britain.

“We need a general election now to bring about the fairer, more equal society we all want to live in,” Mc-Donnell said.

Retired teacher Stephen Hamer, 59, clad in a yellow vest, said the London protest would likely have occurred without the movement in France, but it had “helped things along”.

“I think we need a change in government very urgently,” he added. “The UK is falling apart – nothing works any more.”

Delia Hazrati, a health worker in her 50s who had travelled from southeast England in a yellow vest, said the left needed to “reclaim” the movement.

“It’s a movement against austerity laws – that’s what it’s about,” she added, noting that right-wingers had been “opportunistic” in adopting it.

Ahead of last Saturday’s protests, Nick Lowles, CEO of the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, accused Britain’s far-right of “attempting to copy the French ‘yellow vests’ protests… to stir up trouble and harass, threaten and attack their political opponents”