French yellow vests protest despite Emmanuel Macron’s outreach
- Saturday’s protests will test whether Macron’s ‘national debate’ is diminishing the movement’s momentum
- About 80,000 police were mobilised nationwide
Thousands of yellow vest protesters rallied on Saturday in several French cities for a 10th consecutive weekend, despite a national debate launched this week by President Emmanuel Macron aimed at assuaging their anger.
In Paris, protesters started their march at the Invalides monument in Paris, home to Napoleon’s tomb, to remember the 10 people killed in protest-related traffic accidents and the hundreds injured since the movement for economic justice kicked off November 17.
French police have been criticised for using rubber projectiles that have caused several serious injuries to protesters.
“It’s not normal to treat people the way we are being treated. We have injured people every Saturday,” said Juliette Rebet, a demonstrator in Paris.
Protesters marched peacefully in Paris but clashes erupted at the end of the main demonstration. Some activists wearing masks threw projectiles and knocked down a traffic light before police charged at them, using tear gas and water cannons.
Clashes were also reported in the western city of Rennes that injured two policemen, according to BFM TV.
In Paris, 20 people were arrested, according to Paris police.
At the Invalides, protesters carrying a banner that read “Citizens in danger” marched at the front of the procession and held coffin-shaped boards in memory of those killed.
Paris deployed 5,000 police around the capital, notably around government buildings and the Champs-Elysees shopping area. About 80,000 police have fanned out nationwide.
The capital and much of France have endured weeks of protests over economic demands by French workers and students that at times descended into violence. Saturday’s protests will test whether Macron’s debate is diminishing the movement’s momentum.
The grass roots protests started two months ago over fuel taxes but became a broader revolt against economic problems. The movement eased over the holidays but more than 80,000 people protested across France last weekend – up from 50,000 the week before.
Macron is facing a plethora of demands ranging from the re-introduction of France’s wealth tax on the country’s richest people to the implementation of popular votes that allow citizens to propose new laws.
Macron launched his grand debate this week during meetings with mayors and local officials. The three-month-long debate involves a series of meetings organised by citizens, groups and elected officials to enable the French to express their views on the economy and democracy.
Macron has already cancelled a fuel tax hike and released other funds to help French workers. He said he is open to discussions but has warned he won’t give up on his major reforms, including the touchy issue of changing France’s pension system later this year.
“We do not believe in the grand debate,” said Jonathan Gaby, a demonstrator from the Paris suburbs. “We won’t decide, the government will decide, in the end.”