Scuffles in Paris during 'yellow vest' protest

Ivan Schwartz
December 15, 2018

The "yellow vest" movement, which began its demonstrations November 17 initially to protest an increase in fuel taxes, soon morphed into an expression of rage about the high cost of living in France and a sense that Macron's government is detached from the everyday struggles of workers.

Around 60 people had been arrested in the capital by 11:00 am (1000 GMT) compared with 500 at the same time last weekend, according to figures released by the local government.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned on Friday that the demonstrations were attracting violent extremists from the political left and right, as well as looters.

"I would prefer an act of responsibility".

"The more the movement continues, the more it will be a loss for the French economy", the governor of the French cental bank, Francois Villeroy de Galhau said in an interview with Les Echos newspaper on Thursday.

However, the terror attack, along with Macron's proposals to increase the minimum wage, have lead some other yellow vests to call for a focus on discussion, rather than more protests this weekend, for fear of losing the public's sympathy.

"Go Christmas shopping", urged Jacline Mouraud, a 51-year-old hypnotherapist from Brittany whose viral Facebook video lambasting Macron's fuel tax helped inspire the Yellow Vests protests at the beginning, this week.

Images of road blocks, massive traffic jams and mobs rioting on the streets of Paris have dented France's image, as well as Macron's hopes of forcing through more business-friendly reforms, analysts say.

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"We will see if the French are still supporting the movement but also if the "yellow vests" are ready to stop demonstrating and structure themselves", said Poirier, in a reference to the grassroots nature of the movement, which has no leadership and has largely been organized through social media.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels Friday, Macron said "France needs calm, order and a return to normal". But he refrained from directly calling for protesters to stay at home.

In the rest of France, the "yellow vests" block roundabouts, tolls and have been identified in cities such as Marseille or Bordeaux. More than half of French people have changed Christmas shopping plans due to the protests, according to an Opinionway poll published on December 7, and one in five said they were ordering online for safety reasons.

But he announced a climb-down on the hated fuel tax rise last week and further concessions appear to be on the cards.

The total package has been estimated by economists to cost up to 15 billion euros ($17 billion), which is expected to be financed mostly by government borrowing. There were more than 1,000 protesters in the capital so far, police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert told BFM TV.

Drouet was referring to Macron's address to the nation on Monday, billed as the most important speech of his presidency, in which he offered a range of concessions to the demonstrators.

About 8,000 police and 14 armoured vehicles were deployed in Paris for the demonstration, after similar protests in recent weekends turned violent, with protesters smashing and looting stores and setting up burning barricades in the streets.

After shutting their doors last Saturday, several tourist sites around Paris, including the Louvre museum and the Eiffel Tower, are planning to open this weekend.

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