Yesterday started out as a bummer of a day. We had missed our tour to the vineyards, and we didn’t really have anything else planned, so we headed to an aquarium instead.
Just outside the aquarium, there is a huge shopping complex, so Dave and I head in to find some laundry soap and other supplies we needed. Just before we got to the grocery store, I spotted some sweaters I liked, so I sent Dave in to get the groceries and I popped into the shop.
It turned out the clothes were all very overpriced, so I went to join Dave. That’s when they started shutting the gates. I was trapped in the mall, and Dave was trapped in a store…. In a country where he doesn’t speak the language.
At first, I figured a child might be missing, but when I asked, I was told that the Gilets Jaunes protesters were going to be coming through. We were all being asked to get out of the store through a back door.
The protests have been going on for months. You can read more about it here, but the short version is that people in France are angry with their government for quite a few reasons. Mostly, the government has been lowering taxes for the rich, and bringing them up for the poor. A recipe for discontent.
It turned out the protestors organized a march in Montpellier on the very day we were in the city. Dave and I found ourselves separated and without any mode of communication (our Spanish sims didn’t work in France).
I explained to the staff at Geant that my anglophone husband was in the store, so they let me stay there and wait for him to come out. People were allowed leaving the store … Just not allowed going in.
It turns out Dave didn’t even know anything happening because all the announcements had been in French. He came up to the cash registers to pay, laundry detergent and a bag of ice in hand, with no idea that I’d been waiting anxiously for him for 10 minutes while protesters marched by!
Things luckily didn’t escalate at this particular protest, but many others have ended in riots. At the shopping center, a few people set off some fireworks, which definitely scared me, but were completely harmless. In other areas of the countries, fires were set, businesses were vandalized and tear gas was unleashed on rioters. It’s no wonder the mall closed up and everyone moved behind the safety of gates.
So that was our experience with the Gilets Jaunes. Long story short: basically nothing happened, but I worried anyway. In fairness, this could have escalated in a big way. You can watch a compilation of a protest that did not end so peacefully in Montpellier just 2 weeks ago here.