France’s Yellow Vests have set their sights on the country’s financial institutions, with demonstrations planned outside of Rothschild in Lyon and talks of a large-scale ‘bank run’ gaining support.
The bank run, in particular, has piqued the interest of crypto media, and it’s clear to see why.
If such a run were to occur, it could have devastating effects on the country’s financial system, which protestors, many of whom come from low-to-middle-income backgrounds in one of the most-taxed nations in the world, see as an oppressive force unfairly dictating the direction of legislation in the country.
So who are the Yellow Vests?
The Gilets Jaunes – Yellow Vests – movement took root in mid-October in response to a fuel tax supposedly meant to combat climate change and protect the environment. Since then, however, the movement has snowballed into a wider pushback against French President Macron’s perceived bias in favor of the country’s wealthy.
Though the fuel tax was the catalyst that sparked the movement, it has grown to include other social issues such as education reform, greater taxes on the rich, overhaul of the pension system, and more.
“People want fair fiscal justice. They want social justice,” Thierry Paul Valette, a Paris protest coordinator explained.
And on November 17th, the people took to the streets, with over 290,000 demonstrators donning yellow vests across the country.
Over the next few weeks, protests turned more severe, as violence and clashes with law enforcement erupted in Paris near the Arc de Triomphe and other upscale neighborhoods in the city, leading officials to deploy more police and even armored vehicles for the first time ever in the capital city.
In response to the movement, President Macron eventually scrapped all fuel tax hikes for 2019, though he ruled out additional taxes on the wealthy. Despite this, however, protests have persisted, reinforcing the call for greater financial and social reform in the country.
And what about that bank run?
Calls for a potential mass-withdrawal of funds from the country’s banks are on the rise, with a number of individuals taking to social media gaining support.
One activist known as Tahz San explained that the move will “scare this (French) state completely legally and without any violence, yet more effectively than ever expected,” adding, “It’s our elected officials’ worst nightmare.”
Bank runs have occurred many times throughout history, but never have they been explicitly voluntary. Most, if not all, have occurred as the result of customers rushing to their banks to withdraw funds out of fear that the financial institutions become insolvent, often leading to widespread panic and temporary economic chaos.
Judge Christopher Dembik, head of macroeconomic research at Saxo Bank, thinks the Yellow Vest call to action is unlikely to result in any significant impact, stating “Triggering a bank run requires huge queues at the counters, very honestly I think the strike force of yellow vests is too weak to destabilize the sector.”
Though the proposed bank runs might not have the impact that the protestors are hoping for, however, the symbolic move highlights the growing dissatisfaction with Big Finance around the world.