I ask if I can take a photo of him. He walks a bit away from me to give me enough space and takes a standing position for a second or two, before he stops me there. “But wait, shouldn’t I take out my yellow vest for the photo?”
Without his yellow vest, Mike Kale looks like an ordinary house father on a Saturday afternoon in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam-Central station. But every Saturday, he takes his vest and comes to the weekly ‘yellow vest’ demonstration in Amsterdam, organised by himself. The demonstration starts at the station and heads off to the Dam square.
It has been exactly two months since the movement of the yellow vests came to French streets to declare their dissatisfaction. The protests are mainly directed at the government, and their goal is to achieve more economic justice. With their trademark, the clearly visible fluorescent and sleeveless jackets, they quickly became well-known across Europe and the rest of the world. Even so, that their methods have even been picked up by multiple other European countries such as Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands.
The protest in Amsterdam is mainly addressed to the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and its government. “We disagree with their plans and now people are beginning to wake up,” tells Kale.
But the people who are protesting also direct themselves against the European Union. “We are better off without the euro. We’ve sent money to Greece, but we don’t get that money back. What will happen if another country needs money in the future? People are afraid of those consequences, but not everyone here shares that opinion,” adds Kale.
The end of these protests is not yet visible and thereby, there is a possibility that the looming EU elections in May 2019 may be influenced by these expressions of opinion. Extreme right partieslike French Rassemblement National or German AfD have declared themselves supporters of the yellow vests, and those parties often are the ones who are anti-EU and want to leave the eurozone.
The gulf of yellow vests through Europe is happening, and the discontent at democratic governments runs deep. The often-used expression “We pay too much” is a two-sided coin, depending on which political side you ask. And if their self-invented demands will be answered is yet to be seen.