Thursday 17 January 2019

Thousands of 'yellow vests' hit French streets in fifth Saturday of protests

Demonstrators wearing yellow vests talk to police officers on the Champs-Elysees in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)
Demonstrators wearing yellow vests talk to police officers on the Champs-Elysees in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)
Mounted police officers take position during a protest at the Paris Opera House (Michel Euler/AP)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of French cities on Saturday in the fifth weekend of nationwide demonstrations against Emmanuel Macron's government, despite calls to hold off after a shooting in Strasbourg earlier this week.

In Paris, police were out in force to contain possible outbursts of violence. But several major stores, such as the Galeries Lafayette, were open to welcome Christmas shoppers.

On the Champs-Elysees, a handful of topless activists from the feminist protest group Femen faced security forces a few meters away from the Elysee Palace, the president's residence.

The Interior Minister said around 69,000 police officers were active on Saturday with a reinforced presence in the cities of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne.

French President Emmanuel Macron has appealed for calm (Ludovic Marin/AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron has appealed for calm (Ludovic Marin/AP)

On Friday, President Macron called for a return to calm in France after nearly a month of protests by the so-called 'yellow vest' movement against his government's policies. The demonstrations have hit growth and caused widespread disruption.

"France needs calm, order and a return to normal," Macron said, after a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels.

The 'yellow vest' movement started in mid-November with protests at junctions and roundabouts against fuel tax increases, but quickly became a wider mobilisation against Macron's economic policies.

Successive weekends of protests in Paris have lead to vandalism and violent clashes with security forces.

In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Macron announced wage rises for the poorest workers and tax cuts for pensioners in further concessions meant to end the movement but many said they would maintain pressure.

The government, as well as several unions and opposition politicians also called on protesters to stay off the streets on Saturday, after four people were killed in a gun attack at a Christmas market in the historic city of Strasbourg.

A protester wearing a yellow vest makes a fire near a makeshift shelter at a roundabout near the Nantes Atlantique Airport as the
A protester wearing a yellow vest makes a fire near a makeshift shelter at a roundabout near the Nantes Atlantique Airport as the "yellow vests" movement continues, in Bouguenais, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A protester wears a yellow vest at a CGT labour union demonstration to protest against the French government's reforms in Paris, France, December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
A slogan reading "Don't Give Up" is seen on a yellow vest worn by protester at a roundabout in Somain, France, December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
A protester wearing a yellow vest stands inside a makeshift shelter at a roundabout near the Nantes Atlantique Airport as the "yellow vests" movement continues, in Bouguenais, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A man wearing a yellow vest and holding a French flag stands on a bridge near the Nantes Atlantique Airport as the "yellow vests" movement continues, in Bouguenais, France, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A yellow vest is seen in a display of a shop at downtown in Cairo, Egypt, December 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
A yellow vest is seen in a display of a shop at downtown in Cairo, Egypt, December 12, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Reuters

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