French yel­low vest protests tense de­spite dwin­dling num­bers

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! -

PARIS (AP) — Thou­sands of French yel­low vest protesters marched for a 17th straight week­end in Paris and other cities, with ten­sions at times but dwin­dling num­bers.

There were no signs of the se­ri­ous clashes or vi­o­lence that was a hall­mark of some past demon­stra­tions.

The In­te­rior Min­istry counted 28,600 protesters around France by day’s end — more than 10,000 less than a week ear­lier, French me­dia re­ported. It said 3,000 protesters gath­ered in the French cap­i­tal.

Po­lice fired tear gas and used wa­ter can­nons at the end of the Paris demon­stra­tion. Some in the crowd had their faces cov­ered in black and car­ried black flags, re­fus­ing to leave the Champ­sEl­y­sees, the cap­i­tal’s main av­enue where a peace­ful march be­gan hours ear­lier.

Some sang in de­fi­ance at the lines of riot po­lice. A bare-chested man faced down the bursts from the wa­ter can­nons in chilly weather. But there was no ri­ot­ing like that seen dur­ing the height of some past protests when demon­stra­tors burned cars, hurled rocks and even bi­cy­cles at po­lice of­fi­cers and smashed store­fronts.

Over­all, the num­bers of protesters in the yel­low vest move­ment, which held its first na­tion­wide protests Nov. 17, have been steadily de­clin­ing de­spite new tac­tics to en­cour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion. A planned week­end sitin near the Eif­fel Tower flopped Fri­day night when po­lice dis­man­tled wooden struc­tures a group had been set­ting up.

The grass­roots move­ment still counts on a huge turnout next Satur­day, mark­ing its four­month an­niver­sary.

The Paris protest started with a fes­tive note with women, some car­ry­ing pink bal­loons, lead­ing a calm and or­derly march while ad­vo­cat­ing for equal rights and equal pay a day af­ter In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day.

The march, which be­gan at the Arc de Triomphe, at the top of the Champs-El­y­sees, looped through both sides of the Seine River be­fore end­ing at the top of Lux­em­bourg Gar­dens on the Left Bank.

Marches were also held in nu­mer­ous cities around France, in­clud­ing Bordeaux, which has a strong con­tin­gent of yel­low vest protesters, Lille, and Le Puy-en-Ve­lay, in south-cen­tral France, where hun­dreds joined from other re­gions. Many shop­keep­ers there boarded up their busi­nesses in ad­vance. Protesters had burned the re­gional pre­fec­ture in the town in es­pe­cially vi­o­lent protests on Dec. 1. Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron later vis­ited Le Puy-enVe­lay.

Polls have shown sup­port by the French fad­ing be­cause of vi­o­lence and costs to shop­keep­ers who pre­ven­ta­tively close stores to pro­tect wares as well as to France’s im­age abroad.

The move­ment, named af­ter the flu­o­res­cent emer­gency vests the French are re­quired to keep in their cars, held its first na­tion­wide protest by block­ing ve­hi­cles at traf­fic cir­cles. The main com­plaint then was fuel tax hikes, but that long ago ex­panded to an ar­ray of de­mands to main­tain pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to re­v­erse poli­cies they see as fa­vor­ing the rich. Calls for a cit­i­zens’ ref­er­en­dum is now among top de­mands on the list, along with in­creased pur­chas­ing power.

The yel­low vests have been a ma­jor chal­lenge to Macron, who has or­ga­nized na­tional de­bates around the coun­try — many of which he at­tends, re­spond­ing to ques­tions. He has also of­fered a multi­bil­lion-euro pack­age of mea­sures to ap­pease them.

But de­ter­mi­na­tion hasn’t flagged for many, and fig­ures in the lead­er­less move­ment are try­ing to en­er­gize oth­ers for next Satur­day’s protest, which co­in­cides with the end of the pres­i­dent’s two months of de­bates.

“The peo­ple don’t want more of this fi­nan­cial glob­al­iza­tion,” Paris pro­tester Yan­nick Caroff said. “The French peo­ple will not back down.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.