Paris is Burning: Here’s What Travelers Need to Know About the Yellow Vest Protests

By Anna Breuer on 9 December 2018
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For the past four Saturdays, protesters in Paris, the so-called “Gilets Jaunes” or “Yellow Vests,” named for the high-visibility roadside yellow safety vests they wear, have been rioting in the streets, vandalizing shops and restaurants, and torching cars.

The protests, which have turned violent and included the use of tear gas and water cannon by police, have been concentrated in the center of Paris on the Champs-Élysées and in the First, Eighth, 16th and 17th arrondissements, or districts, although that is subject to change.

Because the Arc de Triomphe was vandalized in addition to other monuments including a statue of Marianne, a symbol of the French republic, some cultural institutions and attractions are being preemptively closed as are over a dozen metro stations.

The protests began as a reaction to a tax on diesel fuel but have grown to become what amounts to a full-scale uprising against French President Emmanuel Macron.

It’s still safe to visit Paris although protests against Macron may continue on Saturdays in the coming weeks. Prudent travelers should follow news reports closely and register their presence with the State Department.

The U.S. Embassy in the city issued a demonstration alert at the end of last month, indicating that the confrontations could continue in the foreseeable future.

“Gathering points and routes in Paris include, but are not limited to, the following locations and surrounding areas: Champs-Elysees, Place de la Concorde, Place de la Madeleine, Place de la Bastille, Place de la République, Assemblée National, Port Maillot affecting traffic on the Périphérique (ring road around Paris), Place de Ballard and Porte de Versailles, and the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower.”

The embassy advises using common sense and avoiding known protest locations.  In addition, it also advises keeping a low profile and registering with, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, offered by the U.S. government. STEP isa modern-day alternative to registering at an embassy or consulate in person, that was a common practice going back to the days of traveling abroad by ship. The program is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and residents traveling abroad to register a trip with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate from either a browser or a smartphone.

“We encourage all U.S. citizens travelling or residing overseas to notify the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate of their contact information so that, in an emergency, we can contact them to provide important safety and security information, or support during a crisis,” the State Department tells travelers on its website.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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