The bonnets rouges came to my attention early last month after they held a 20,000-person strong demonstration in Quimper (Bretagne) and started a campaign of destroying the automated portals and traffic camera outposts that the government was using to enforce a new tax on trucks. The demonstrators are named by their trademark red caps, which are a deliberate reference to the Revolt of the Bonnets Rouges in Bretagne against the taxes of Louis ⅩⅣ (though the Phrygian cap is a symbol that is much older).
A new demonstration today, in Carhaix, drew perhaps twice as many people. It is being accompanied by dozens of blockades of trucks along highways throughout France, with the stated goal of letting cars through but halting commercial transport (this is snarling traffic to the extent that some demonstrators were having difficulty getting to the Carhaix rally).
At one point the demonstrators held an auction at which they sold off bits and pieces of previously-destroyed road tax portals as souvenirs.
The language barrier makes it difficult for me to interpret much of the news coming out of the area, but I’m trying to keep up (on the Twitter, it seems that #BonnetsRouges, #RevolteFiscale, and #ReveilCitoyen are the tags to watch today).
The so-called “ecotax” remains a focus of the demonstrations, but there is also a focus on demanding more regional autonomy, and calls for the resignation of the overwhelmingly unpopular French president. Other opposition groups with their own specific grievances have tried to latch on and put their messages on the agenda (notorious far-right politican Jean-Marie Le Pen put on a red cap at one point), but so far the bonnets rouges seem to be maintaining an ecumenical inclusiveness: protesters of the left and right, believing that Bretagne is being misgoverned and exploited by Paris, are keeping a united front and overlooking their differences.