French yel­low vest protests hit ninth week, clash with cops

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS I WORLD - SYLVIE COR­BET

PARIS — Thou­sands of yel­low vest pro­test­ers marched Satur­day through Paris and other French cities for a ninth straight week­end to de­nounce Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s eco­nomic poli­cies, and re­peated ten­sions broke out with po­lice.

Spo­radic vi­o­lence broke out dur­ing protests in Paris, Bourges, Bordeaux, Rouen, Mar­seille and Toulouse.

Pro­test­ers walked peace­fully through cen­tral Paris from the Fi­nance Min­istry in the east of the French cap­i­tal to the Arc de Tri­om­phe in the west.

Scuf­fles be­tween po­lice and ac­tivists then broke out near the mon­u­ment at the end of the march. Po­lice used tear gas, wa­ter can­non and flash-balls to push back some peo­ple throw­ing rocks and other ob­jects at them.

French se­cu­rity forces equipped with ar­moured ve­hi­cles blocked pro­test­ers from go­ing onto nearby Champ­sÉlysées Av­enue. The neigh­bour­hood was re­opened to car traf­fic later Satur­day evening.

The In­te­rior Min­istry said more than 100 peo­ple had been ar­rested in Paris and other French cities, in­clud­ing

82 who were kept in po­lice cus­tody, pri­mar­ily for car­ry­ing po­ten­tial weapons or tak­ing part in vi­o­lence.

The move­ment de­mand­ing wider changes to France’s econ­omy to help strug­gling work­ers ap­peared to gain new mo­men­tum this week­end. The French In­te­rior Min­istry said about

32,000 peo­ple turned out for yel­low vest demon­stra­tions across France at mid­day.

Sev­eral thou­sand pro­test­ers marched in the cen­tral city of Bourges, a pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal with a renowned Gothic cathe­dral and pic­turesque wood­framed houses.

French au­thor­i­ties de­ployed 80,000 se­cu­rity forces coun­try­wide for the anti-gov­ern­ment protests and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner threat­ened tough re­tal­i­a­tion against any who ri­oted.

Paris po­lice de­ployed ar­moured ve­hi­cles, horses and at­tack dogs around the city on Satur­day. Sub­way sta­tions and some shops closed, no­tably around gov­ern­ment build­ings and the Champ­sÉlysées, the sparkling av­enue whose lux­ury bou­tiques have been hit by re­peated ri­ot­ing in past protests.

The move­ment for greater eco­nomic equal­ity waned over the hol­i­days but ap­pears to be resurg­ing, de­spite Macron’s prom­ises of bil­lions of eu­ros in tax re­lief and an up­com­ing “na­tional de­bate” to ad­dress demon­stra­tors’ con­cerns that Macron is ex­pected to launch with a “let­ter to the French” on Mon­day.

The protests started in Novem­ber with driv­ers who op­posed fuel tax in­creases, which is why par­tic­i­pants wear the flu­o­res­cent vests that French mo­torists must keep in their ve­hi­cles. But it has mush­roomed into a broad­based re­volt against years of shrink­ing pur­chas­ing power and Macron’s probusi­ness poli­cies.

Some yel­low vest groups hope to trans­late that anger into votes in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May.

THIBAULT CA­MUS / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A yel­low vest pro­tester clashes with po­lice near the Arc de Tri­om­phe, in Paris, on Satur­day.

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