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Yellow Vest protesters revive rallies across France

  • September 07, 2019

Thousands of protesters rallied in cities across France on Saturday in a fresh attempt to galvanize support for the Yellow Vest movement after demonstrations tapered off during the summer.

The largest Yellow Vest protest of the day occurred in the southern city of Montpellier. Officials reported that 2,000 people gathered there, while organizers put the number somewhere closer to 5,000.

Black Bloc blamed for Montpellier violence

Clashes between police and protesters marred the demonstration in Montpellier. Officers fired tear gas into the crowd in an attempt to disperse demonstrators, while a firebomb destroyed a police vehicle. Additionally, a number of storefronts were vandalized.

Yellow Vest protests in Paris were largely peaceful.

Yellow Vest protests in Paris were largely peaceful.

Read more: French actors and writers back latest yellow vest protests

Police reported that they detained seven and arrested nine protesters, mainly for throwing objects at officers. Seven officers were slightly injured.

Regional officials blamed the violence on the radical “Black Bloc” protesters, 500 of whom were thought to be participating in the protest.

Montpellier’s regional prefect, Jacques Witkowski, condemned the “very aggressive behavior” of the Black Bloc activists who he said joined the protest determined to smash things.

Read more:  Despite Macron’s plans, French yellow vests keep on going

Yellow Vest organizers have long seen Montpellier as a stronghold for the movement and called for a major demonstration in the city.

  • A protester wearing a yellow costume attends a demonstration (Reuters/P. Wojazer)

    Yellow vests: Unrest returns to the streets of Paris

    A changing movement

    The movement takes its name from the high visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars. It was initially a protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel tax, but eventually swelled to a tide of more general resentment against his government. Although numbers have dwindled, they were higher again on Saturday than in previous weeks.

  • Yellow vest protesters gather near the Arc de Triomphe

    Yellow vests: Unrest returns to the streets of Paris

    Mostly peaceful protest

    Protesters gathered close to a well-guarded Arc de Triomphe, with organizers keen to discourage violence. Sporadic violence did break out, with French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner calling it the work of “professional troublemakers.”

  • Yellow vests, tear gas (picture-alliance/dpa/AP/C. Ena)

    Yellow vests: Unrest returns to the streets of Paris

    Thick in the air

    In recent weeks, the protests have been relatively calm, but things turned ugly again this time around. Some yellow vests threw smoke bombs and cobblestones at officers, who replied by deploying clouds of tear gas.

  • French riot police forces walk past a scooter seen in a broken store window

    Yellow vests: Unrest returns to the streets of Paris

    Looted shops

    Businesses were attacked along the Champs-Elysees, home of numerous luxury brand stores and high-end eateries. Police made arrests as demonstrators looted shops and ransacked the exclusive Fouquet’s restaurant. More modest commercial premises also suffered, including a newsstand which was set alight.

  • A barricade burns on the Champs Elysees (picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Ena)

    Yellow vests: Unrest returns to the streets of Paris

    Burning the barricades

    Protesters erected and set alight barricades on the Champs-Elysees on the 18th consecutive weekend of protests. Saturday’s scenes were reminiscent of some of the worst yellow vest rallies in December, when stores were looted and vandalized in images that shocked many observers.

  • Demonstrators hold a banner depicting the French President and reading 'only one God, one Master, dead France' in Paris (Getty Images/AFP/A. Jocard)

    Yellow vests: Unrest returns to the streets of Paris

    President of the rich?

    Demonstrators have accused Macron, a former investment banker and finance minister, of looking after the interests of the wealthy while neglecting ordinary French workers. Critics have also hit out at the president’s style of government, accusing him of being too aloof and affecting a regal air — a perception that has earned him the nickname “Sun King.”

    Author: Richard Connor

Paris protest largely peaceful

Smaller rallies were also held in other cities around France including Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Rouen, Lille, Strasbourg, Dijon, and Bordeaux.

Read more: Opinion: France’s Emmanuel Macron faces bumpy road to reform

In Paris, police reported that they detained 89 people and issued 60 cautions, but the rally — which was smaller than at the height of the Yellow Vest protests but larger than in recent weeks — passed off peacefully, said the city’s chief of police, Didier Lallement. 

Fresh wave of rallies after summer lull

The Yellow Vest protest movement, named after the high-visibility vests the protesters wear, originated in November in opposition to French President Emmanuel Macron and his government’s economic reform policies, and specifically a planned rise in fuel prices.

Protest movement leaders have continued to call for Macron’s resignation while attempting to spark a fresh wave of rallies as the government launches an overhaul of France’s retirement system.

mmc/sms (AFP, dpa)

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