On Saturday November 17, 2018, several hundred thousand people dressed in yellow high-visibility jackets blocked roads across France at roundabouts and toll stations. Demonstrations took place in many cities, the most notable being that in Paris, on the Champs-Élysées. That same evening, the Ministry of the Interior counted more than 2,000 blockade points and 287,710 participants. This mobilization was largely a follow-up to the online petition “For a drop in fuel prices at the pump!” launched at the end of May 2018 by Priscillia Ludosky, a thirty-two-year-old self-employed entrepreneur from the suburbs of Paris (Seine-et-Marne). The petition, which was then widely publicized on social media, garnered 200,000 signatures in just a few days, and now has over one million and counting. The protest actions continued up until November 2019, marking a year of the movement. This longevity was accompanied by a sharp decline in the number of participants as time went on. Most of the roundabouts were cleared of protestors in mid-December 2018 by the police, blockades became sporadic, and many participants were arrested or sanctioned.
The gilets jaunes protest movement was surprising in its scope, forms of organization, and duration. In many respects, it questioned the established analyses of social movements, raising many questions about its composition, its characterization, and the methodology to be used to understand its complexity. It quickly became apparent that the majority of participants were from the working classes…
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