France’s “Yellow Vest” protests inspire copycats, spark fakes abroad

PARIS: The “yellow vest” revolt in France over the high cost of living has sparked copycat protests abroad — as well a swarm of fake reports.

AFP’s fact-checking service sorts the real from the imagined:

Copycat protests

The month-long French demonstrations, which have led to repeated rioting in Paris, have inspired protesters in a number of mostly European countries.

On December 8, some 400 people were detained in Brussels after protesters wearing high-visibility fluorescent vests briefly clashed with police.

Others reportedly blocked a highway linking Brussels to the town of Rekkem in Flanders, near the French border to protest high taxes.

On the same day in the Netherlands, “yellow vests” turned out in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague to protest the high cost of living, but they were few in number and the demonstrations were peaceful.

In Hungary, some of those protesting a new law, which increases the amount of overtime employers can require of workers, also dressed up in yellow vests on December 12 outside parliament.

And in Poland, farmers wearing the distinctive jackets on Wednesday blocked a motorway to demand government compensation for a swine flu outbreak.

In Germany, both Alice Weidel, one of the founders of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, and the radical left-wing Die Linke party have expressed support for the French movement.

And some yellow vests were seen among a 1,000-strong crowd of right-wing demonstrators when the Pegida anti-migrant movement when it held a rally on December 1 in Berlin.

In Belgrade, a handful of opposition members of parliament also donned yellow on December 4 to protest petrol price increases.

In South Africa, where some protesters have been spotted wearing yellow vests during demonstrations against the low quality of public services, the Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) spoke out in favour of the French movement, saying it was a model for future protests.

The French movement kicked off on November 17 over higher fuel taxes, but quickly morphed into a nationwide grassroot protest against the high cost of living and the government.

President Emmanuel Macron has since offered tax and wage concessions in a bid to end the protest.

Worried governments

In Egypt, authorities fearing possible protests on the anniversary of the uprising that toppled Egypt’s longtime president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, have sought to restrict the sale of yellow vests.

“We received instructions from the police around a week ago to sell yellow vests to companies only, and not to individuals,” one importer said.

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And a human rights lawyer, Mohamed Ramadan, was remanded in custody earlier this month over charges including the distribution and possession of leaflets and yellow vests.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, defended the jailing of an elderly rights activist over calls to protest, stressing he wanted to prevent events like France’s “yellow vest” revolt.

Fake yellow news

But not every sighting of a high-visibility jacket should be seen as political.

Many social media accounts wrongly reported on Monday that German rail workers, who held a one-day strike for higher pay, wore yellow vests in solidarity with the French.

The vests are mandatory to ensure they are visible when on the railway tracks.

Other reports were pure fakes.

An internet platform,, published a photograph showing 300 motorcyclists in yellow vests purportedly demonstrating in the capital of the Central African Republic against “the French neo-colonial system” and against the local French-linked currency.

The picture was in fact taken in May when motorcyclists in Bangui attended a first aid training clinic.