The growing yellow vest movement in the UK

Hundreds of people put on high-visibility jackets in imitation of French protesters as they marched in central London against government cuts on Saturday the 16th of Feb. 

Organisers from The People’s Assembly Against Austerity described Saturday’s march as the arrival in the UK of the “yellow vests” movement that rocked France in November 2018.

They even brought two campaigners from across the Channel to seal the relationship.

But they are not the only group to claim the spirit of the yellow vests, with pro-Brexit demonstrators outside Parliament also putting on high-vis jackets.

The French connection

“English people, you look good in yellow!” said a message on the jacket of Erick Simon.

French protesters Erick Simon and Laurie Martin wore messages of support

He is one of the gilet jaunes, as they are known in France, who travelled from Normandy with fellow organiser, Laurie Martin.

Ms Martin said she came “to support the British because our demands are the same as those fighting austerity across Europe”.

Jim Scott, who got up at 04:00 GMT to travel from west Wales to the protest, said the vests had become a powerful “symbol for change”.

“They’re facing the same things in France: austerity, cuts to public services, expanding the gap between rich and poor. That’s how this movement has started.”

Is it a right-wing or left-wing symbol?

Meanwhile, another group of protesters was outside Parliament, also in yellow vests.

They waved the union jack, burned EU flags and denounced “left-wing scum”. “We’re not far right, we’re just right,” they chanted.

In France, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has said violent far-right and far-left groups have both infiltrated the gilet jaunes protests.

But Tom Griffiths from the People’s Assembly, which organised the UK anti-austerity march, said that because the movement had “burst out of the streets”, it meant different things to different people.

He said marchers, who carried banners in support of migrants, stood against racism and fascism.

“We are absolutely not allowing the far right to take over the yellow vest movement in this country. They’ve been forced out the yellow vest movement in France and they’ll be forced out the yellow vest movement in this country,” he said.

London Protests 16th Feb

London Metropolitan Police confirmed six arrests were made following the protest late this afternoon, which ran through Piccadilly Circus as well as Westminster. In a statement, the force said two officers were assaulted and taken to hospital for treatment. The statement read: “Six arrests were made following a moving ‘yellow vest’ protest in Whitehall and Piccadilly on Saturday, 16 February.

Police arrested six in a violent clash at London’s Whitehall that saw two officers assaulted (Image: LEWIS THOMAS)

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