The protests of the French “yellow vests” degenerated this Saturday in confrontations with the police in Paris and other cities, although they were smaller than a week ago thanks to a reinforced police deployment and almost 1,450 arrests.
In Paris, for the first time in the history of the city, the armored vehicles of the gendarmerie went into action to put out barricades , on the fourth day of demonstrations of the “yellow vests”, named for the fluorescent garments they wear.
This wave of demonstrations began on November 17 in opposition to an increase in fuel taxes. President Emmanuel Macron gave in, annulling the measure, which was part of a plan to combat climate change, and froze gas and electricity prices in the coming months.
It was not enough to appease the wrath of the yellow jackets, a heterogeneous movement without a leader, who are now demanding that the government lower taxes and raise the minimum wage and retirements.
This Saturday night, the prime minister, Edouard Philippe, tried to reduce the tension and promised that President Macron “will speak and propose measures to nourish the dialogue”. “We have to weave the national unity again,” he added in a brief statement broadcast on television.
Many of the “yellow vests” manifest without violence. The most radicalized and above all members of extreme right and extreme left groups break into protests and face the police.
In the Champs-Elysées area, protesters tried to set fire to the facade of a luxury shopping center, burned cars and threw projectiles at security forces. In some places black smoke was rising.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, deplored the “scenes of chaos” and the “immeasurable damages” in this new day of protests. “It is unimaginable that we relive this!” He cried in a tweet.
Denis, 30, came to Paris from Caen (northwest). “The goal is to go to the Elysee !, seat of the presidency, on a street parallel to the Champs Elysees,” he told AFP. “I do this for the future of my son, I can not allow him to live in a country where others are enriched at our expense. ”
Tim Viteau, a 29-year-old unemployed, participated in the demonstrations for the third consecutive Saturday. He and his partner were forced to return home to their parents because they could not pay the rent. “How are we going to have children? I also want children.”
The riots spread to other tourist or central places of the capital, despite an imposing security deployment, with 8,000 police, of the almost 90,000 mobilized throughout the country.
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum and numerous shops were closed and protected with wooden boards, something unusual in the pre-Christmas period.
It is an “unforgettable” trip, says Carmela Forte, a New York tourist, with a touch of irony, whom her husband surprised her with a trip to Paris for her birthday.
In all of France, 125,000 people demonstrated throughout the day, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. “There were 1,385 arrests and this figure will increase, there were 975 preventive arrests” and there will be more, he said.
Some of the detainees were carrying masks, hammers or paving stones, according to Interior Secretary Laurent Núñez.
Although the calm prevailed in the morning in the rest of the country, in the afternoon the clashes began in some provincial cities.
In Bordeaux (southwest) a march of “yellow vests” degenerated at the end of the route with the launching of Molotov cocktails by the demonstrators, the AFP found.
The violence also marred the protests in Lyon (east) Saint-Etienne (center), Marseille (southeast) and Toulouse (south).
Several roads and highways were blocked throughout the country and on the Franco-Spanish border, the “yellow jackets” mounted a selective barricade that blocked the passage of trucks from Spain.
“That they destroy the banks, the multinationals, I do not care, but the small businesses, it’s something totally stupid,” said Anthony, a 23-year-old protester. “It’s absurd,” added his partner, angry at those who come “only to destroy” and discredit the movement.
The American president Donald Trump threw fuel on the fire. ” The Paris Agreement is not working very well for Paris, protests and riots throughout France,” he wrote in a tweet published while the 24th UN Climate Conference takes place in Poland.
Tens of thousands of people, some dressed in yellow vests, participated this Saturday in several cities of France in the marches for the climate. They called for fighting against climate change and social inequalities at the same time. Paradoxically, some courtships of “green vests” and “yellow vests” merged.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen called for “strong responses” to the “social suffering” expressed by the protesters, who accuse Macron of being the president of the rich.
The protests were not limited to France. In Brussels, 400 people were arrested during a demonstration of “yellow vests” and the neighborhood of the European institutions was completely closed. Manifestations in the calm took place also in several cities of Holland.
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