An estimated 10,000 people held protests that turned into riots and looting in Paris. Police used tear gas and water cannons to control the streets but nearly 1,000 people were arrested. When I wrote about this yesterday I noted that the political outlook of the yellow vests seemed a lot less clear than some early reports suggested. Today the NY Times reports there is an emerging divide between the older yellow vests, many of whom come from rural parts of the country, and the black bloc anarchists who tend to be younger and appear to be piggybacking on the protests to engage in vandalism and looting:

The day fulfilled some of the dire predications of French officials, who had anticipated smaller, but still violent, protests as more radical elements and professional vandals, called “casseurs,” or “breakers,” exploited the atmosphere of insurrection in pursuit of pulling down the government or engaging in anarchic pleasures…

By the midafternoon in Paris, the cassuers had ripped down the plywood that had been placed over the windows of nearly every business in hopes of preventing smashing and looting. The Champs-Élysées was quickly covered in tear gas, and hundreds of people beat a hasty retreat down the avenue.

The presence of the vandals increasingly appeared to be provoking a split in the movement, between the bulk of Yellow Vests and the more violent anarchistic elements that have progressively grafted themselves on to it.

In some areas, the casseurs — fit, determined young men dressed in black — could easily be distinguished from the Yellow Vests, often middle-aged men from the countryside.

In at least one instance, on Avenue Marceau, Yellow Vests could be seen replacing protective boards ripped down from shop windows by the casseurs.

The Yellow Vests looked on in horror and bemusement as the vandals smashed in the windows of a sporting-goods store and made off with boxes of sneakers on one of the most chic avenues around the Arc de Triomphe.

“This is just madness,” said a middle-aged Yellow Vest, Franck Morlat, a train driver who had traveled from central France. “Totally unacceptable.” Others around him looked disgusted.

There’s a lot of media coverage of all of this. First, the water cannons being used against rioters:

A lot of evidence of vandalism and looting taking place.

More vandalism and looting:

This EuroNews report is from the same spot as the clip above, just several hours later.

A Starbucks being smashed and at the end of this clip the water cannons arrive:

The top clip shows the armored cars being used to clear barricades set up in the street. The 2nd clip below shows more vandalized storefronts.

The second clip below is a real estate agency in Paris.

The top video shows someone being arrested. Below that, more vandalism:

And finally, more burning cars:

For anyone insisting these are right-wing protesters, I’m seeing lots of evidence to the contrary. Quite a few of these protesters seem to be demanding Macron resign because he is a servant of the wealthy:

And this graffiti reads: “No Christmas for the bourgeoisie.”

Last Monday, noted geopolitical expert Pam Anderson said we shouldn’t worry too much about the vandalism and arson. What mattered was understanding that people are fed up with inequality.

I’m sort of mocking her above but actually, I think she may be partly right about what is motivating the protesters. I don’t agree with her conclusions at all but the idea that this is becoming a protest about inequality seems accurate. I would argue that France is suffering from years of stagnation resulting from a pampered workforce which is used to short weeks and long retirements. I would further argue there is no socialist solution to this problem. Taxing the rich and spending more on the poor to lessen inequality in the near term will only ensure the high unemployment (near 10%) and low growth (which has lagged behind Germany and the UK for years) will continue. That’s not going to work out very well for anyone in the long run.

Meanwhile, President Trump connected the protests to the Paris climate agreements:

The diesel tax which President Macron agreed to delay this week was part of a green initiative aimed at lowering carbon emissions. So the central issue that kicked this off these protests does have a connection to the Paris Agreement.

But there’s a lot more going on here. It seems to me a lot of these protesters, having won the delay of the tax, are now focused on taxing the rich. And with the unions embracing these protests now, it seems likely the message of the protests is going to continue to swing to the left in the coming week.