PARIS — Intolerance and conspiracy theories have haunted the margins of France’s “yellow vest” movement since the first protests over fuel taxes roused the discontented middle of French society.
The men and women in fluorescent safety vests blocking traffic and intimidating shoppers on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue vent a range of grievances against the government.
But over 11 weeks of yellow vest protests, views from the fringes have bubbled through the diffuse and leaderless movement and have been amplified: anti-Semitic rants about banking, a Holocaust survivor harassed on the subway, assaults on journalists, and claims the government concocted terrorist attacks or deadly accidents to divert attention from the demonstrations.
There has been scattered violence at the protests, with clashes between participants and riot police, and authorities worry that the extremists have taken over the center of the movement, risking a return to the darker episodes from France’s past.
On Saturday in Paris, a man in a yellow vest turned toward a journalist filming at the sidelines of an otherwise quiet match, hurled a homophobic epithet and added: “You work for the Jews.” No one in the march joined in, but neither did they contradict him.
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