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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Yellow vest protests swell across France as violence eases

Thousands had taken to the streets along the Seine in Paris as of 3 pm to gather in front of the National Assembly.

world Updated: Jan 06, 2019 07:00 IST
Gaspard Sebag
Gaspard Sebag
Bloomberg, Paris
Riot police officers take position at the Champs Elysees avenue during a yellow vest protest in Paris on Saturday.
Riot police officers take position at the Champs Elysees avenue during a yellow vest protest in Paris on Saturday. (AP)

France’s Yellow Vest movement staged mostly peaceful anti-government daytime rallies on Saturday for the eighth weekend in a row, drawing about 25,000 people in various cities, double the total of a week ago.

French television showed thousands marching along the Seine in Paris to gather in front of the National Assembly as well as a large crowd amassed in front of the Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux. Several thousand Yellow Vest protesters also blocked highway traffic in Lyon, according to Agence France-Presse. About 25,000 had taken to the streets nationwide as of 3 pm, AFP reported, citing police sources.

Whereas several hundred people were detained by authorities during protests on previous Saturdays after showdowns between protesters and police forces, only a few reports emerged today. Still, as marchers dispersed around 4 p.m. local time in the French capital, tensions increased with firemen having to intervene to extinguish scooters and bins that had been set on fire, in particular on the posh Boulevard Saint-Germain.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a tweet that the violence would be assessed on a video-conference call and issued a request for all to respect the rule of law.

People across France have been donning the high-visibility vests that motorists must keep in their cars for about two months to express a range of grievances and demands, ranging from lower taxes and higher wages to better public services. The number of people rallying on the streets on Saturdays has consistently diminished after about 300,000 participated on the first “Day of Action” on Nov. 17.

French public opinion still largely backs the demands of the Yellow Vests, but support has waned after President Emmanuel Macron made concessions and some protesters turned violent, burning cars and looting stores. Macron last month announced he’d boost the minimum wage, scrap taxes on overtime and year-end bonuses, and scrap a new tax on pensions. Most Yellow Vest leaders denounced the measures as inadequate and said protests would continue.

First Published: Jan 06, 2019 01:02 IST