News & Politics

Chaos on French Highways as Yellow Vest Protesters Torch Toll Booths

A speed camera is out of order after being vandalised in Ville d'Avray, near Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. "Yellow vest" protests have gripped France for four weeks, blocking highways from Provence to Normandy and erupting in rioting in Paris. The tag reads "GJ" for Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests). (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

A major highway connecting Marseille and Toulon was closed overnight as a key toll booth was occupied and burned by yellow vest protesters.

All told, about 40 toll booths across the country were occupied or set on fire by protesters against the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

Reuters:

Some 20 people were arrested on Tuesday following the blazes, while four others remain in custody following fires on Saturday.

“Motorists should take utmost care as they approach toll gates and motorway access ramps due to the presence of numerous pedestrians,” Vinci said in a statement.

Several people have died in roadside accidents at yellow vest roadblocks in recent weeks, mostly at the many roundabouts blocked by groups of demonstrators.

Toll booths haven’t been the only target of the protesters on the nation’s highways.

Protesters angry about high fuel costs and new speed limits have also damaged or torched hundreds of traffic radars.

Radars-auto.com estimated that by the middle of last week some 1,600 – about half of all French traffic radars – had been damaged. More than 250 have been entirely destroyed, it said.

The French state will also lose several tens of millions of euros in revenues, it said, adding that in 2017 the radars had yielded on average 84 million euros ($96 million) per month.

The interior ministry declined comment on the number of radars damaged, but said that minor damage cost on average 500 euros per radar to repair, with major damage costing up to 200,000 euros.

Fines for damaging radars can run as high as 75,000 euros.

“Even wrapping a radar in plastic or a yellow vest… without destroying it is an offense,” a ministry official said.

Vinci estimates the damages since the start of the protests will cost it “several tens of millions” of euros, not including lost revenue, as the protesters have allowed thousands of motorists onto the highways for free.

How stupid is the Macron government? They reluctantly dropped a plan to invoice drivers who were allowed through the toll booths by the protesters without paying.

Macron has yet to figure out how to address the real reasons for these massive protests. Rescinding the fuel tax increase only showed how clueless he and his advisors are about the real reasons behind the demonstrations. The comfortable, middle-class life that most Frenchmen enjoyed for decades has been disappearing because of high taxes, the high cost of living, and stagnant wages. People are fearful, frustrated, and angry and the government is ignoring them.

The yellow vests will continue to riot and create chaos until someone listens to them.