The num­ber of protesters in the lat­est ‘yel­low vest’ ral­lies across France surged Satur­day, which saw a marked de­cline in vi­o­lence de­spite hun­dreds of ar­rests and clashes with po­lice in Paris and other cities

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

VAR­I­OUS cities in France faced a fresh round of “yel­low vest” protests over the week­end, dur­ing which thou­sands of protesters marched to de­nounce Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s eco­nomic poli­cies. Scuf­fles be­tween po­lice and ac­tivists broke out, as French po­lice used tear gas and wa­ter can­non to push back some protesters and more than 100 peo­ple were ar­rested.

than 84,000 peo­ple turned out for the ninth round of demon­stra­tions against French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron since Novem­ber, the coun­try’s 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 Dec. 15, it was still below the nearly 300,000 when the ral­lies be­gan two months ago.

While vi­o­lence re­mains on the scene of protests, 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 sev­eral 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, only 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.

Press free­dom in France has taken on


new mean­ing af­ter the no­to­ri­ous 2015 Char­lie Hebdo at­tacks against the jour­nal­ists of the satir­i­cal mag­a­zine.

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,” one of the “white bands,” who gave his name as An­thony, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

How­ever 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, how­ever, 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 which were taken into po­lice cus­tody, the in­te­rior min­istry said.

Dozens were ar­rested in the cen­tral city of Bourges, the site of an­other ma­jor 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-yearold re­tired ar­chae­ol­o­gist dressed as the leg­endary Gal­lic re­sister to Ro­man rule.

“We want parliament dis­solved. Macron has to stop ig­nor­ing us and re­al­ize how bad things are,” said Wil­liam Le­brethon, a 59-year-old con­struc­tion worker amid signs say­ing “Macron re­sign!” and “France is an­gry.”

A few hun­dred protesters later burned trash cans amid cat-and-mouse clashes with po­lice in Bourges’ his­toric cen­ter, and skir­mishes also broke out in Nimes, Nantes, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and other cities.

The demon­stra­tions also spilled over the bor­der into east­ern Bel­gium late on Fri­day, where one of around 25 protesters man­ning a block­ade died af­ter be­ing hit by a truck, Bel­gian me­dia re­ported.

The man sus­pected of driv­ing the truck re­mains on the run. He was iden­ti­fied on Satur­day af­ter his li­cense plate was traced back to a Dutch com­pany, lo­cal prose­cu­tors said, adding that a European ar­rest war­rant would be is­sued.

Yel­low vests have made ap­pear­ances all over Western Europe and have be­come an un­of­fi­cial sym­bol of anti-es­tab­lish­men­tar­i­an­ism.

The “yel­low vest” move­ment, which be­gan as protests over high fuel taxes, has snow­balled into a whole­sale re­jec­tion of Macron and his poli­cies, which are seen as fa­vor­ing the wealthy at the ex­pense of ru­ral and small-town France. The protesters do not share com­mon pol­i­tics and ap­pear to hail from left, right and cen­ter, ide­o­log­i­cally speak­ing.

Protestors wear­ing yel­low vests clash with po­lice of­fi­cers on the Place du Capi­tole in Toulouse, south­ern France, Jan. 12.

Yel­low vest protesters stand near tear gas dur­ing clashes with po­lice at an anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tion in Le Mans, Jan. 12, 2019.

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