Sunday 21 April 2019

Riot police fire tear gas in new French protests

Protesters staged a rally at La Defense, a major business district located west of the city limits of Paris (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)
Protesters staged a rally at La Defense, a major business district located west of the city limits of Paris (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)

Chris Den Hond and Sylvie Corbet in Paris

Protesters from the yellow vest movement took to the streets of France yesterday for a 21st straight weekend, with thousands marching across Paris and a group briefly invading the busy ring road around the capital.

Riot police rounded up protesters and fired tear gas, apparently to stop others from entering a ramp on to the road. At another of the protests around the country, police also fired tear gas in Rouen, in Normandy, in a showdown with protesters.

The Interior Ministry estimated there were 3,100 protesters in Paris, compared with 1,800 the week before. The ministry counted 6,300 protesters across France.

The number of people taking part in the yellow vest demonstrations has been dwindling since the first protests over fuel taxes in mid-November last year, when hundreds of thousands turned out. But the grassroots movement for social and economic justice continues to pose a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron.

"We will continue until victory. We give up nothing, because today, nothing has been obtained," Agnes Berger, a protester from Saint Cloud, west of Paris, said. "We still have a corrupt system, an elite that governs against the people."

Jeremy Gibon, from the suburb of Le Mesnil-Amelot, called for a radical solution that creates a "new system". "It's a war of attrition," Gibon said. "We feel if we make everything fall, we can rebuild something."

The grassroots yellow vest movement began with an outcry over fuel tax rises, and got its name because demonstrators wore the fluorescent safety vests motorists are required to carry in France.

The movement's demands since have multiplied to include a people's referendum and the restoration of a wealth tax, with increasing the buying power of the majority of France's people a major priority.

Paris police have become more proactive in countering violence like the rioting on Paris's Champs-Elysees last month. A new police chief has been appointed and the Champs-Elysees has been declared off-limits to protesters.

Sunday Independent

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