On 4 January, putting into practice President Emmanuel Macron’s new year’s resolution to be firm with thegilets jaunes (“yellow vests”) movement, the French government’s spokesperson, Benjamin Griveaux, declared that the administration would “go on with the reforms and be more radical”. He condemned the actions of the anti-tax protesters, who he described as “agitators stirring up insurrection”. The yellow vests might have ruined the fun in late 2018, but 2019 was absolutely going to be the year the Elysée took back control.
On 5 January, Griveaux had to flee his office building as protesters smashed the entrance open with heavy plant machinery and entered the courtyard. The yellow vests’ “Act VIII”, held in Paris and across France last Saturday, saw a resurgence both in numbers of marchers – there were 50,000, compared to 30,000 in the weeks before Christmas – and in violent clashes between the police and the yellow vests.