Wednesday 20 November 2019

Yellow vest protests keep pressure on French president

It was the 11th straight weekend of demonstrations across the country, including on the streets of Paris.

A yellow vest demonstrator hurls an object at police during a protest in Paris (Michel Euler/AP)
A yellow vest demonstrator hurls an object at police during a protest in Paris (Michel Euler/AP)

By Angela Charlton

France’s yellow vest movement has kept up the pressure on President Emmanuel Macron with mainly peaceful marches and scattered skirmishes on its 11th straight weekend of action.

The rallies and protests took place despite internal divisions among the protesters and growing worries about violence.

Multiple anti-government protests took place in Paris and other cities, centred on Macron policies which are viewed as favouring the rich. About 80,000 police officers were deployed to patrol the events and to disperse any trouble.

A few cars were set ablaze in the Normandy town of Evreux.

In Paris, crowds gathered at the columned headquarters of France’s lower house of parliament.

Police used tear gas on demonstrators at the iconic Bastille Plaza, some of whom hurled missiles in response.

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It was the 11th weekend of protests in a row in France (Michel Euler/AP)

Armoured vehicles circled the Arc de Triomphe monument as a group of protesters weaved down the famous Champs-Elysees, the site of recent rioting.

Some yellow vest leaders want to maintain momentum by holding protests after dark as well as during the day. Two groups planned events at Place de la Republique in eastern Paris, with some protesters threatening to defy police and stay overnight.

Mr Macron has sapped some support for the movement by taking an active role in recent days in a national debate in towns across France, launched to address the protesters’ concerns.

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Protesters gathered in the Place de la Republique in eastern Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

Participants at the Champs-Elysees march called Mr Macron’s national debate a “smokescreen” to distract the French from his pro-business policies.

They expressed views which ranged from the far left to the far right. Many want Mr Macron to restore France’s wealth tax and allow the public to propose national referendums on anything from pulling France out of the euro to rewriting the constitution.

It is unclear how long the movement can maintain its momentum. Mr Macron scrapped the fuel tax hike that initially sparked the protests and offered widespread tax relief when the protest violence hit a peak in December.

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Police officers group outside a Paris restaurant (Michel Euler/AP)

One branch of the movement launched a bid this week for the European Parliament elections in May, but other protest leaders disagree with the idea.

In another challenge for the yellow vest movement, rival groups calling themselves the “red scarves” plan demonstrations on Sunday to condemn violence unleashed by recent protests.

In between the Saturday protests, yellow-vested crowds have occupied scattered roundabouts and tollbooths around France, disrupting traffic to express a sense of neglect by the central government. The movement began on November 17, and is named after the fluorescent garments French motorists must carry in case of emergency.

PA Media

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