France po­lice wa­ter spray ‘yel­low-vest’ protesters

The Jerusalem Post - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

PARIS (Reuters) – Paris po­lice fired wa­ter can­non and tear gas to re­pel “yel­low-vest” demon­stra­tors from around the Arc de Tri­om­phe mon­u­ment on Satur­day in the ninth straight week­end of protests against French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s eco­nomic re­forms.

Thou­sands of protesters also marched nois­ily but peace­fully through the Grands Boule­vards shop­ping area in north­ern Paris, close to where a ma­jor gas ex­plo­sion in a bak­ery killed two fire­fight­ers and in­jured nearly 50 peo­ple early on Satur­day.

Cen­tral Paris was in lock­down against an­other feared erup­tion of vi­o­lence by rad­i­cal el­e­ments in the gilet­s­jaunes (yel­low-vest) move­ment, with bridges across the Seine River closed and of­fi­cial build­ings such as par­lia­ment and the El­y­see pres­i­den­tial palace pro­tected by po­lice bar­ri­ers.

Groups of protesters also gath­ered on and around Paris’s fa­mous Champs Élysées Boule­vard, the scene of dis­tur­bances in re­cent weeks, many of them call­ing loudly for Macron to re­sign.

“Macron, we are go­ing to tear down your place!” one ban­ner read.

Around the 19th-cen­tury Arc de Tri­om­phe at the top of the Champs El­y­see, riot po­lice un­leashed wa­ter can­non and tear gas at mil­i­tant yel­low-vest protesters af­ter be­ing pelted with stones and paint, wit­nesses said.

By mid-af­ter­noon there had been no ma­jor clashes with po­lice un­like in pre­vi­ous weeks. In Paris over 50 peo­ple were ar­rested, some for car­ry­ing ob­jects that could be used as weapons.

There were also thou­sands of marchers in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulon in south­ern France as well as Stras­bourg in the East and the cen­tral city of Bourges.

Bourges au­thor­i­ties said nearly 5,000 yel­low vests stuck to the des­ig­nated demon­stra­tion area but an­other 500 had pushed into the city cen­ter that was off-lim­its for demon­stra­tors.

Many busi­nesses in Bourges had boarded them­selves up to avoid da­m­age from protesters and au­thor­i­ties had re­moved street fur­ni­ture and build­ing site ma­te­ri­als that could be used for bar­ri­cades.

In Stras­bourg, up to 2,000 demon­stra­tors gath­ered in front of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment build­ing and later marched to the cen­ter of the city on the Rhine River bor­der with Ger­many. Protesters set garbage bins ablaze and po­lice fired a few tear gas grenades, but no se­ri­ous vi­o­lence or loot­ing was re­ported.

More than 80,000 po­lice were on duty for the protests na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing 5,000 in Paris.

The “yel­low vests” take their name from the high-vis­i­bil­ity jack­ets they wear at road bar­ri­cades and on the street. Their rage stems from a squeeze on house­hold in­comes and a be­lief that Macron – a for­mer in­vest­ment banker re­garded as close to big busi­ness – is in­dif­fer­ent to their hard­ships.

Macron, of­ten crit­i­cized for a monar­chi­cal man­ner, is to launch a na­tional de­bate on Jan­uary 15 to try to mol­lify the yel­low-vest protesters, whose un­rest has shaken his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The de­bate, to be held on the In­ter­net and in town halls, will fo­cus on four themes: taxes, green en­ergy, in­sti­tu­tional re­form and cit­i­zen­ship. But aides to Macron have said chang­ing the course of Macron’s re­forms aimed at lib­er­al­iz­ing the econ­omy will be off lim­its.

(Chris­tian Hart­mann/Reuters)

A ‘YEL­LOW-VEST’ pro­tester faces off against French po­lice yes­ter­day near the Arc de Tri­om­phe in Paris.

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