French ‘Yellow Vests’ Defy President Macron Again in Tense Protests

By Reuters
January 27, 2019International
French ‘Yellow Vests’ Defy President Macron Again in Tense Protests
Protesters wearing yellow vests carry a banner in a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement, in Paris, France, on Jan. 19, 2019. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

PARIS—Thousands of “yellow vest” demonstrators marched in Paris and other French cities on Jan. 26 in protests that brought sporadic clashes with police and suggested that President Emmanuel Macron has yet to defuse public discontent.

On the 11th consecutive weekend of action against the government, 69,000 people took to the streets, including 4,000 in Paris, the interior ministry said, down from an estimated 84,000 demonstrators across the country a week before.

Marches were mostly peaceful but there were incidents in several towns, including in the capital, where an eye injury to a well-known “yellow vest” activist added to recent controversy over police violence.

The protesters—who wore the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to carry in their cars—came out onto the streets in November to oppose a planned fuel tax rise. Their movement then developed into a broader revolt against the government that mobilized tens of thousands each weekend.

In Paris, several processions crossed the capital, with one descending the famous Champs-Elysees avenue that has been the scene of protests every weekend, before converging in Bastille square.

Small groups of protesters at Bastille formed makeshift barriers, lit fires, and threw projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons, television footage showed.

The police said they made 52 arrests in Paris.

In the southwest, brief clashes also took place in Bordeaux and Toulouse, which have been focal points of the movement.

“I condemn as firmly as possible the violence and damage caused again this Saturday, both in Paris and in the regions, by vandals disguised as ‘yellow vests,’ ” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner wrote on Twitter.

However, he announced that an internal police investigation had been launched after a protester was injured at Bastille. TV images and the victim’s Facebook page showed that Jerome Rodrigues, a prominent figure in the grassroots movement, had been wounded in the eye.

“I don’t get it. When we declare our protests, we get tear-gassed. When we don’t declare our protests, we get tear-gassed,” 43-year-old demonstrator Hafid Marrouch said at Republic square.

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