1000s of police on guard as Yellow Vests hit streets in France for 10th week in a row
Around 84,000 people had joined the protests across the country on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said. The turnout was comparable to that of last week, meaning that the nation-wide debate on the crisis announced by President Emmanuel Macron so far did little to change the people’s moods.
In Paris, the Yellow Vest occupied the Champs-Elysees and the Esplanade des Invalides near the nation’s parliament. People were seen waving national flags and setting off firecrackers.
Some protesters brought cardboard coffins, in memory of the people who have died since the beginning of the protests (the majority was killed in traffic accidents during road blockades). They marched under a large banner reading “Citizens in danger.”
The law enforcers used water cannons and tear gas to disperse some of the protesters in Paris.
"Over in the distance, you might see a water cannon. They’re trying to disperse the protestors,” RT’s Charlotte Dubenskij reported from the heat of the action in Paris. “We did see the protestors trying to break down some of the traffic lights. We’ve also seen tear gas being dispersed… The protestors were trying to throw back the tear gas pellets back at the police.”
After the officers used force, there were people lying on the ground, who “potentially could’ve been injured,” Dubenskij said.
42 protestors were arrested in the capital for carrying illegal items and other violations, the police said.
The demonstrators have denounced Macron’s open letter to the country, in which he announced the launch of the nation-wide debate to defuse the tensions, as nothing but a “huge scam.”
“It contradicts everything he [Macron] says and does,” one of the protestors told RT, with the other saying that he’ll gladly send the letter back to the president.
“We hear a lot of fine words, but see very few decisions that somehow improve the wellbeing of the people. There must be a least a slight increase in living standard after we’ve been crying for help for the past ten weeks. We work hard, but we still have an empty fridge. That’s how we live,” a female demonstrator said.
The Yellow Vest processions took place in Caen and Rouen, both in northern France. The rallies were also held in Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, Dijon, Beziers, Avignon, among other places.
The authorities deployed 5,000 police officers in Paris, and 80,000 nationwide, according to local media.
Armored police cars were filmed moving through the southern city of Toulouse where 10,000 people took to the streets. There were scuffles between the police and the Yellow Vests, with at least ten people detained.
A major rally also took place in Bordeaux, with the attendance between 4,000 to 6,000 demonstrators.
Some French protesters carried placards, reading "Freedom, Equality, Flash-Ball," referring to the type of ‘less-lethal’ guns used by law enforcement to quell the protests. The placards also contained pictures of Marianne – a national symbol of liberty – with an injured eye. That was apparently an allusion to a high-publicized incident in December when a young woman was hit in the eye by a projectile the activists say was fired from a Flash-Ball.
In Avignon, the protestors attempted to set the city hall on fire by gathering burning waste materials in front of the wooden doors to the building.
The Yellow Vest protests began in November as a movement against planned fuel tax hikes, but eventually grew to include wider demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron and his government.
Previous rallies have seen violent clashes with police. There have been injuries on both sides, and over 1,000 people have been detained in connection to the unrest, which has at times spilled out into street battles.
Saturday’s rallies take place days after President Emmanuel Macron launched“grand national debates,” a series of public discussions about the government’s policies. He hopes the debates will help in reaching a compromise with the protesters, but many have expressed skepticism regarding the format and intentions. As a result, some protesters appeared with placards denouncing the debates as a “scam.”
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