Yellow Vest protesters are hoping to trigger a bank run with a nationwide coordinated cash withdrawal. By threatening the French financial system, protesters say, they want to peacefully force the government to pass their reforms.
“If the banks weaken, the state weakens immediately,” said Yellow Vest “sympathizer” Tahz San on Facebook. “It’s elected officials’ worst nightmare.”
Protesters plan to empty their bank accounts on Saturday, withdrawing as much money as possible in a bid to undermine the French banks – if not the euro itself. The plan is to “scare the state legally and without violence,” forcing the government to adopt the movement’s Citizens’ Referendum Initiative, which would allow citizens to propose and vote on new laws.
“We are going to get our bread back…you’re making money with our dough, and we’re fed up,” said protester Maxime Nicolle in a video message shared on YouTube.
A well-coordinated financial action has the potential to bring the French banking system – and by extension the euro – to its knees, as banks always hold only a fraction of the funds the country’s citizens have in their accounts. However, most banks limit ATM withdrawals to a relatively low amount, meaning protesters would have to line up inside the banks to withdraw the rest of their money, giving the state plenty of time to place restrictions on withdrawals – though this would, no doubt, spark further protest.
The financial demonstration is a novel means of circumventing Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s proposed crackdown on “unauthorized protests,” announced earlier this week after a particularly violent weekend of clashes with armed riot police – including an unexpected appearance by boxer Christophe Dettinger. Philippe has promised 80,000 security forces will be deployed for the next protest.
Meanwhile, there is tension within the movement itself, as some former protest leaders call for a political solution.
The government has urged the protesters to make their voices heard in a national debate instead of demonstrating in the streets as they have done for the last two months. The debate, scheduled for next week, will cover climate change, “democratic issues,” taxes and public services.