This is an updated version of an article that ran on December 21st. It includes comment from a Maine-based organizer with American Yellow Vests (AYV) who did not give a name.
For over a month now, the gilets jaunes or Yellow Vests, a popular uprising in France that started in response to a gas tax, has captured international attention. Protests have been violent, with police often firing less-lethal munitions at demonstrators. Like the Arab Spring and Occupy movements before it, the Yellow Vests have spread across the globe. Yellow Vests protesting high unemployment in Iraq and high living costs in Israel while Egypt has banned the sale of hi-vis safety vests out of fear of an uprising.
And now it’s come to the United States.
Saturday, a nationwide “YellowVest Movement American Action” took place. The event seems to be coordinated in part by the same people who organized the May Day Anonymous March, though an American Yellow Vests (AYV) page also organized the event.
The AYV Facebook page says they are a “nonpolitical peoples movement” who “aim to remove corruption in all areas and maintain and perfect our system of governance so it operates for the people and not the interests of the 1%.”
During a Facebook livestream by AYV activist Adam Rice the account commented “End neoliberalism and its wars! We demand self-governance through the right to referendum and healthcare for all! No more precariat class!”
The spokesperson for the group said it is against destruction of public and private property and that “[a]nyone committing violence immediately disassociates themselves from AYV by doing so.”
One of the AYV Facebook page’s former moderators, according to the representative that spoke to LCRW, was linked to the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) movement. The AYV page is full of MMT memes. The movement is based around the ideas of University of Newcastle, New South Wales Economics professor Bill Mitchell. MMT economics are premised on the idea that governments spend money into existence and destroy it through taxes. MMT activists argue for policies like the federal job guarantee. They often try to frame their arguments outside of left versus right political dynamics.
The gilets jaunes protests in France and abroad aren’t organized strictly along left/right lines. They’re broad working class responses to dissatisfaction with the way centrist governments like Emmanuel Macron’s craft policies. The yellow vests in France demand less taxes, more subsidies for hiring young people, and ending austerity politics–the style of governing associated with neo-Liberalism and the Washington Consensus. Under austerity, government spending is reduced and taxes are hiked so government budget deficits can be reduced. Social welfare programs are typically cut first.
One event in Sacramento organized by AYV started at 10am didn’t give a meeting point. The other two events were in San Diego at an unspecified location and at the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles.
According to an Instagram account called @Yellow_vest_america, the protest was to take place at Sacramento City Hall.
Boston area-based Resist Marxism, an organization started by Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman of Proud Boys and Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights fame, posted a list of Yellow Vest protests happening last Saturday on its Facebook page.
“We’re co-opting the Boston protest, wouldn’t be surprised if we’re the only ones there,” the group’s account commented on the post.
The Maine-based Yellow Vests spokesperson said before the event that they were aware of the Resist Marxism’s planned attendance.
AYV’s account asked a viewer of the Boston livestream to refer to the group specifically as ‘American Yellow Vests’ or AYV.
“We are trying to identify ourselves as one and stay away from right-wing fascist groups who are/may be trying to usurp our movement,” AYV’s account said in the comment.
The livestream shows Resist Marxism holding its banner on the top of a staircase. A Resist Marxism member said over a microphone that “We need to end the War on Terror” to whistles of approval from Rice. The Resist Marxism speaker called the war “an excuse to stick our fighting youth in places it does not belong to perpetuate the failing system.”
A common talking point shared by the pro-Trump right and the alt-right is objection to U.S. wars abroad on the basis that American troops being needlessly killed to fight others’ wars for them. Leftists tend to argue against U.S. wars abroad because they kill civilians abroad, not just U.S. soldiers.
The other prominent speaker ranted vaguely about globalists before the livestream ended.
The term globalist is shorthand for global elites such as politicians, bankers and heads of industry. The term was popularized by far-right talk show host Alex Jones. While some use the term interchangeably with terms like “the 1%” that just mean the wealthy and powerful, it’s often a dog-whistle for fringe groups. In different far-right and conspiracy circles ‘globalists’ are secretive people or groups who control the world from the shadows. ‘Globalist’ also serves as a dog-whistle for Jews in white nationalist and other anti-Semitic circles. Anti-Semitic conspiracies are typically premised on replacing malign elites’ influence over the world with Jewish influence.
“Witness before your eyes the Left and the Right sharing a megaphone to publicly condemn globalism as part of the yellow vest peoples movement. we all shook hands at the end, so glad we went! You won’t catch this on msm!” Rice said when he posted the livestream to his personal Facebook page. MSM is shorthand for “mainstream media.”
This isn’t the first time far-right organizers have tried to use yellow vests for their own causes. Haley Adams, an associate of the Pacific Northwest’s Patriot Prayer, began wearing a high-visibility vest to her events this month. One of the Saturday YVA events was slated for Portland City Hall.
The Instagram account is clearly run by someone who gives credence to far-right conspiracies. The first post on the account was five days ago. It depicts the back of a yellow vest with a pair of scissors stabbing an Eye of Providence. The caption on the picture rants about how global warming is a “fraudulent narrative” and claims the protests in France are “anti-New World Order” and against “open borders and droves of Arabs being brought into their country by their traitorous leaders.”
Another picture of the French protests is captioned “Guess who doesn’t fluoridate their water? France,” referring to fluoride-in-the-water conspiracies made popular in part by Alex Jones.
Number 15 in the ‘Demands’ section on the Instagram page says “Award the right of vaccine exception to every American citizen, period.”
LCRW will continue to follow far-right involvement in the United States Yellow Vest Movement as it develops.