World: ‘Yel­low vests’ surge, but vi­o­lence down

▶ Jour­nal­ists as­saulted at sev­eral ral­lies in cities across France

Global Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The num­ber of pro­test­ers in the lat­est “yel­low vest” ral­lies across France surged on Satur­day, but there was a marked de­cline in vi­o­lence de­spite hun­dreds of ar­rests and clashes with po­lice in Paris and other cities.

More than 84,000 peo­ple turned out for the ninth round of demon­stra­tions against Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron since Novem­ber, the in­te­rior min­istry said, up from 50,000 the pre­vi­ous Satur­day.

At­ten­dance had de­clined over the Christ­mas hol­i­day break, and while Satur­day’s turnout was higher than the 66,000 pro­test­ers on De­cem­ber 15, it was still far be­low the nearly 300,000 when the ral­lies be­gan two months ago.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner said that “re­spon­si­bil­ity tri­umphed over the temp­ta­tion of con­fronta­tion” in Paris, where 8,000 pro­test­ers marched “with­out se­ri­ous in­ci­dent,” up from 3,500 last week.

He also hailed the 80,000 of­fi­cers de­ployed na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing 5,000 in the cap­i­tal.

How­ever jour­nal­ists were as­saulted at ral­lies in sev­eral cities, as well as a se­cu­rity of­fi­cer ac­com­pa­ny­ing LCI tele­vi­sion re­porters who was sur­rounded and beaten by marchers, some wear­ing yel­low vests, in the north­ern city of Rouen.

“In our democ­racy, the press is free. In our Repub­lic, the free­dom to in­form is un­alien­able. As­sault­ing jour­nal­ists is an at­tack on both,” Cas­taner tweeted.

For the first time or­ga­niz­ers of the Paris march de­ployed teams wear­ing white arm bands to cor­ral the march that be­gan near the Place de la Bastille.

“We’re guid­ing the march to make sure they keep to the route and avoid con­fronta­tions, so they don’t re­spond to po­lice provo­ca­tions,” said one of the “white bands,” who gave his name as An­thony. But scores of pro­test­ers later clashed with riot po­lice at the Arc de Tri­om­phe in Paris, prompt­ing vol­leys of tear gas and wa­ter can­non as se­cu­rity forces pre­vented them from reach­ing the heav­ily for­ti­fied Champs-El­y­sees.

The pro­test­ers be­gan to dis­perse as night fell and po­lice be­gan re­mov­ing ar­mored ve­hi­cles and trucks in an at­mos­phere of rel­a­tive calm. TV im­ages later showed a gui­tarist croon­ing not far from the po­lice lines.

Po­lice de­tained 244 pro­test­ers na­tion­wide, 201 of whom were taken into po­lice cus­tody, the in­te­rior min­istry said. Dozens were ar­rested in the city of Bourges, the site of a rally aimed at draw­ing peo­ple far­ther from the cap­i­tal.

“I get by on 1,200 eu­ros ($1,380) a month, and taxes eat away at my sav­ings every day. They’re tak­ing away ev­ery­thing we have,” said “Vercinge­torix,” a 74-year-old re­tired arche­ol­o­gist dressed as the leg­endary Gal­lic war­rior.

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