Yellow vest numbers fall as organisers prepare to target Paris
The interior ministry said the turnout across France was around 28,600, the lowest since the movement began and a far below last weekend’s official estimate of 39,300.
The movement started last November as a backlash against French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to hike fuel taxes, part of his bid to push a cleaner energy model on a burning planet, has morphed into a broader movement attacking the government as out of touch with the hardships faced by struggling households and low-income workers.
The first march on November 17 saw an estimated 282,000 protesters.
Yesterday (Saturday) demonstrations were also held in several other French cities, including Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse as well as smaller towns such as southerly Puy-en-Velay.
Separately around 1,000 “pink jackets”, nursery staff and care workers, called for better tax and benefit conditions for their work, according to organisers.
The pink protesters were spread among the yellow vests to denounce unemployment reforms for child-care workers.
Yellow vest representatives want to mark four months of weekend protests next Saturday by converging on Paris, rather than holding smaller events across the country.
Macron’s attempt to appease the movement with a three-month series of nationwide public gatherings, dubbed the “grand debate,” is set to conclude this month.
He also dropped the fuel tax increase and budgeted an extra €10 billion to help the poorest workers.
A French court rejected a bid by campaigners to have the use of controversial crowd-control weapons banned.
Michelle Bachelet, the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council, called on the French authorities to investigate reports of excessive use of police force.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the IGPN, the official organisation that investigates police conduct, had launched more than 100 investigations into the protests.
But the mayor of a tiny French town has made the symbolic act of instructing police to stop using ball launchers, whose rubber bullets have been blamed for numerous severe injuries.
Dany Koxher, mayor of Phalsbourg, with a population of about 5,000, admitted that he had no power to enforce the “order”.
“But as a citizen and an observer, I find that the government’s responses are disproportionate against the demonstrators,” he told the media.
The yellow vests have disrupted French weekends since November. Picture credit: Wikimedia