Agosthino Bareto has stowed away his neon yellow vest and stopped occupying road junctions in protest against the burden of high French taxes. But the garage owner still seethes with anger at the mention of President Emmanuel Macron.
Fed up with of punishing living costs and the squeeze on his finances, Bareto a year ago joined strangers on a roundabout near Fontainebleau in a nationwide campaign against diesel tax hikes. The protests across France swiftly morphed into a broader revolt against Macron.
The 41-year-old president needed more than six months and 15 billion euros worth of tax cuts and other fiscal incentives to quell the uprising. Yet trade union-led calls for mass strikes in December against Macron’s pension reform plan underline the president’s precarious footing as discontent simmers.
Bareto, who retires next month, said Macron had smothered one fire, but the struggle of France’s middle class and working poor persisted. He lamented how the “Gilets Jaunes”, or “Yellow Vests“, became riven by competing interests and said he might resume his protest if the movement found renewed focus.
“The glowing embers need only a small puff of wind to catch alight once more,” Bareto said at his garage in Fontainebleau, a commuter town 70 km (45 miles) south of Paris.
The “yellow vest” backlash to Macron’s reforms to liberalise the French economy was an amorphous movement that spread via social media, unlike previous French popular revolts that were directed by trade unions or student bodies.