France’s ‘yellow vests’ mobilize for fresh round of protests
Thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched in cities across France on Saturday in a new round of “yellow vest” protests against President Emmanuel Macron, accused of ignoring the plight of millions of people struggling to make ends meet.
Officials have vowed zero tolerance for the violence that has marred the weekly protests since they began two months ago, deploying some 80,000 security forces nationwide, AFP reported.
In Paris, epicenter of the fiery street clashes and vandalism that have made global headlines, 5,000 riot police were on hand, using tall barricades and armored vehicles to lock down the central Place de la Concorde and surrounding districts.
Hundreds of officers were also on guard on the Champs-elysees, where banks, jewelry stores and other shops had boarded up windows in anticipation of renewed looting and violence.
Yet many cafes and retailers on the iconic avenue remained open for business, as several thousands of protesters marched calmly from the Place de la Bastille toward the Arc de Triomphe early in the afternoon.
Many sang the “Marseillaise” national anthem, while others held signs saying “Insecurity is not a job!”
At times the crowd yelled “Free Christophe!” in reference to Christophe Dettinger, the former professional boxer arrested last week after being filmed bashing two police officers during the Paris demos.
Police said some 30 people had been detained in the capital earlier for carrying weapons or other charges.
“We’ve come to Paris to make ourselves heard, and we wanted to see for ourselves at least once what’s going on here,” said Patrick, 37, who told AFP he had travelled from the Savoie region of western France.
Police fire tear gas in the southern city of Nimes, France. PASCAL GUYOT/AFP