The varied faces of France's yellow vest movement

The varied faces of France's yellow vest movement

One sports a fire helmet, another a revolutionary bonnet, yet another a costume crown. They come from factories or the French heartland, or from the high schools of Paris.

These are the faces of France's yellow vest movement, an array of people with grievances so varied that sometimes it's hard to see what they have in common other than the fluorescent vests glowing from their chests.

Weekend after weekend, thousands have poured into Paris to vent their anger at a government seen as coddling the elite. But each is individual, and many make personal statements through the accessories they wear.

For Lara, 45, that's her vivid red hat evoking Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic and the overthrow of the monarchy.

Daniel, 62  Retired

Daniel, 62

Retired

Marine, 26 and her sister Fanny, 19  Real estate negotiator and student

Marine, 26 and her sister Fanny, 19

Real estate negotiator and student

For retiree Daniel it's a crown and a skeleton face mask, with a French tricolor flag draped over his yellow vest.

Jean-Michel, 66, painted his blood type — O positive — on his forehead in blood-red paint, to protest what many see as a heavy-handed police response to sometimes violent protest. Roger and Marc, also in their 60s, wear goggles to protect from the tear gas. More than 2,000 people have been injured since the movement began Nov. 17, mostly protesters but also many police, and journalists too.

All of the protesters spoke only on condition that their surnames not be used. Some feared repercussions at work for their activism; others that their names would be associated with the extremist side of the movement.

Theo, 27  Engineer

Theo, 27

Engineer

Audrey, 37  Production line conductor

Audrey, 37

Production line conductor

Engineer Theo, 27, came from the Alps to march in Paris, a fire helmet perched on his head with a cardboard sign expressing his anger at the European Union, dictatorship and President Emmanuel Macron.

Former soldier Christophe proudly wears his medals and blue beret. A simple neon headband, adorned with a heart, makes the point for personal care worker Cecile.

Some have a specific grievance, most often the rising cost of fuel. That hits hardest on the working class in the provinces who need their cars to get to school, work, the doctor, the supermarket. Older generations are angry at a new tax on pensions.

Others come out of curiosity, or general discontent that life in France hasn't been as comfortable as they thought it would be.

Magali came from the Mediterranean island of Corsica with a "mandate" from some 100 yellow vest protesters at home who are bitter at the central government but couldn't afford to travel to the capital. She waves a Corsican flag.

Young people enthusiastically join the ranks. Rafael, 17, marches in a Russian-style fur hat with a hammer-and-sickle sign. Real estate negotiator Marine, 26, goofs around in peace-sign glasses alongside her 19-year-old student sister Fanny.

A playfulness sometimes mixes with the anger, like in the bright yellow ribbons springing out of secretary Valerie's hair, or the yellow mimosas carried by Audrey, a production line conductor from the northern city of Lille, punctuating the gray sky.

Marc, 64  Independent worker

Marc, 64

Independent worker

Rafael, 17  Student

Rafael, 17

Student

Demonstrators, called the yellow jackets, march on the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, as they protest against the rising of the fuel prices, Nov. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Demonstrators, called the yellow jackets, march on the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, as they protest against the rising of the fuel prices, Nov. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Yellow vests protestors protect themselves from tear gas during scuffles Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Valence, central France. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Yellow vests protestors protect themselves from tear gas during scuffles Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Valence, central France. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

French riot police officers hold back demonstrators wearing yellow vests as they demonstrate in front of the French public television network (France Televisions) in Paris on Dec. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

French riot police officers hold back demonstrators wearing yellow vests as they demonstrate in front of the French public television network (France Televisions) in Paris on Dec. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Roger, 67  Retired

Roger, 67

Retired

Marie-Gwen, 62  Retired

Marie-Gwen, 62

Retired

Yellow vest protesters demonstrate peacefully in the streets of Paris, France, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Yellow vest protesters demonstrate peacefully in the streets of Paris, France, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A yellow vest protester taunts riot police during clashes around the Arc of Triomphe in Paris, France, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A yellow vest protester taunts riot police during clashes around the Arc of Triomphe in Paris, France, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Valerie, 47  Secretary

Valerie, 47

Secretary

Christophe, 57  Former member of the military

Christophe, 57

Former member of the military

Did, 58  Artist

Did, 58

Artist

Lara, 45  Head of a french company

Lara, 45

Head of a french company

A demonstrator holds a French flag near the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A demonstrator holds a French flag near the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A demonstrator throws debris at a burning barricade while protesting with others against the rising of the fuel taxes on the famed Champs Elysees avenue, in Paris, France, Nov. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A demonstrator throws debris at a burning barricade while protesting with others against the rising of the fuel taxes on the famed Champs Elysees avenue, in Paris, France, Nov. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Jean-Michel, 66  Retired

Jean-Michel, 66

Retired

Livia, 21  Literature student

Livia, 21

Literature student

Avenues leading to the Arc de Triomphe are pictured from the top of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees avenue during a demonstration, Dec. 1, 2018 in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Avenues leading to the Arc de Triomphe are pictured from the top of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees avenue during a demonstration, Dec. 1, 2018 in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A demonstrator leaves as water cannons evacuate the Place de l'Etoile, near the Arc de Triomphe, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

A demonstrator leaves as water cannons evacuate the Place de l'Etoile, near the Arc de Triomphe, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)


Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

Photos by Kamil Zihnioglu