France's "Yellow Vest" protests have evolved from simple expressions of anger over Emmanuel Macron's since-canceled gas-tax hikes to deadly expressions of rage against the entire French status quo and its ineffectual "president of the rich". As demonstrators rioted across the country, trashing its capital, vandalizing one of its most sacred monuments and brutalizing police (as well as their fellow citizens).
All of this is happening against a backdrop of economic decline as consumption has fallen off a cliff during the crucial holiday sales season. French shares have tanked as images of the chaos have been splayed across cable news.
And a proclamation by the Elysees Palace on Thursday could further degrade confidence: Macron's office said the Elysee expects a movement "of great violence" on Saturday, warning that a hardened core group of several thousand demonstrators are coming to "break and kill" when during the fourth act of the "yellow vests" protests, Franceinfo reported.
Amid the chaos, France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has devised a brilliant plan to try and placate French citizens, which would (in theory) make it less likely that they would join the protests.
Speaking at a conference in Paris on Thursday, Le Maire said he had met with the CEOs of French companies, who agreed to give their workers a one-off tax free bonus.
Le Maire said the bonus would be a "pay-back" for their efforts for the economy. Le Maire also said "anything to increase the paycheck" of workers has his support, (though he claimed measures to "artificially" increase the minimum wage would lead to job losses). "We’re going through a crisis that shows that the dikes have been breached, France no longer is spared from the populist wave," he said, which is why France needs "stability" in fiscal policies.
We now wait to see if the French people's deep-seated rage toward their supremely unpopular president can be soothed with a wad of cash. Meanwhile, leaders of the Yellow Vest movement are demanding to meet with Macron on Friday afternoon ahead of further protests this Saturday. "Macron must listen to his people," one said.