Turnout for Paris Yellow Vest protests dwindles on fifth weekend

Paris - By Pol O Gradaigh and Sabine Glaubitz, -Several hundred Yellow Vest protesters gathered at various sites in Paris for the fifth Saturday in a row, though turnout by midday was markedly lower than one week ago, when about 10,000 people demontrated across in the capital city.

Demonstrators in the French capital were met by 8,000 police officers and 14 armoured vehicles. Nationwide, some 69,000 security workers were deployed.

The protesters clashed with security forces on the Champs-Elysees, with tear gas used. Yet the number of arrests was significantly down from last week: 46 as compared to 335 by the same point in the day, according to police.
Protesters wearing fluorescent-yellow safety vests have staged rallies and blocked roads across France since mid-November, sparked by planned fuel-tax rises that the government said were necessary to support environmental measures.
Ministers had repeatedly appealed for the protests to be called off this weekend after four people were killed in a Tuesday knife and gun attack at the Christmas market in the city of Strasbourg.
President Emmanuel Macron will also likely be waiting to see whether protesters have been assuaged by a package of concessions he announced on Monday. It includes extra money for low-paid workers, and tax breaks on overtime and some pensions.
On Friday, Macron said that France needed calm, order, and a return to "normal functioning." He appealed to protesters to join in a wider national debate that he promised on a broad range of policy issues.
But many prominent figures in the largely leaderless movement - named after the fluorescent yellow road-safety vests that have become its symbol - said they planned to head back to the streets anyway.
Some 2,000 people were arrested throughout France last Saturday, as police grappled with rioting, burning cars and looted shops.
A calmer atmosphere was expected this weekend. Tourist sites around the capital, including the Louvre museum and the Eiffel Tower, opened as usual this weekend after shutting their doors last Saturday.
Paris police chief Michel Delpeuch said policing arrangements would be similar to last week, with widespread searches of people and cars ahead of the protests and mobile units of riot police primed to deal with any outbreaks of disorder.


Saturday, December 15th 2018
By Pol O Gradaigh and Sabine Glaubitz,

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