Wednesday 18 September 2019

Yellow vest protests quieter across France ahead of Christmas

In previous weeks, demonstrators have caused chaos in Paris and other major cities.

The ‘yellow vest’ protesters have reduced in number (Michel Euler/AP)
The ‘yellow vest’ protesters have reduced in number (Michel Euler/AP)

By Samuel Petrequin, Associated Press

The yellow vest protests which have brought chaos to Paris and other French cities over the past few weeks have abated as the Christmas holiday season begins in earnest.

The number of protesters demonstrating on the Champs Elysees on Saturday is down sharply on recent weeks as an appeal for a sixth straight weekend of protests across France appeared to fall on deaf ears.

In stark contrast to the chaos of previous weekends, tourists strolled down the avenue near the Arc de Triomphe, and what is perhaps the grandest of Parisian boulevards remained open for traffic.

A few hundred protesters cordoned by police forces did walk across Paris towards the Madeleine Church near the Elysee Palace, but they were stopped by police in a small adjacent street as some shop owners closed down early.

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Demonstrators have block the road near the French border with Spain (Bob Edme/AP)

Despite the more benign backdrop, the protests are still having a knock-on effect.

The palace of Versailles just outside Paris, for example, has been shut for the day after yellow vest protesters said they will hold a demonstration at the famous chateau that was home to succession of French kings until the French Revolution in 1789.

However, only a few protesters wearing their trademark vests showed up in Versailles, with most of the protesters gathering peacefully at the foot of the Sacre-Coeur basilica in the picturesque Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre.

Paris’s other big tourist hotspots such as the Louvre museum and the Eiffel Tower, which had closed during previous protests, remain open.

One reason why the heat has been taken out of the protests relates to the concessions from French President Emmanuel Macron.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has made a series of concessions recently which have placated protests somewhat (AP)

They include tax-free overtime and a freeze on gas and electricity prices this winter. The measures are expected to cost an estimated 10 billion euro (£8.9 billion)

Much of France, but particularly Paris, has endured weeks of protest by a nationwide movement that at times descended into violence.

Ten people have died since the start of the movement in mid-November, mostly in traffic accidents.

According to several reports in French media, a man died on Friday night near the southern city of Perpignan after his car hit the back of a truck that had stopped near a group of protesters.

Outside Paris, around 200 roundabouts remain occupied across the country.

In southern France near the Spanish border, dozens of demonstrators blocked trucks and chanted “Macron, Demission”, which translates as “Macron, resign”.

In central France near Saint-Etienne, protesters blocked a major road and started fires, but shops remained open in the city centre.

PA Media

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