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Yellow vest protests continue in France despite Macron outreach

President Emmanuel Macron launched a grand debate this week aimed at calming the demonstrations.

Yellow vest protesters in Paris (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Yellow vest protesters in Paris (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Thousands of yellow vest protesters have rallied in French cities for a 10th consecutive weekend despite a national debate launched this week by President Emmanuel Macron aimed at reducing their anger.

In Paris, about 8,000 protesters started their march at the Invalides monument, home to Napoleon’s tomb, to remember the 10 people killed in protest-related traffic accidents and the hundreds injured since the movement for economic justice kicked off on November 17.

French police have been criticised for using rubber projectiles that have caused several serious injuries to protesters.

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Protesters with a banner reading ‘Citizen in danger’ (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

“It’s not normal to treat people the way we are being treated. We have injured people every Saturday,” said Juliette Rebet, a demonstrator in Paris.

Protesters marched peacefully in the French capital but clashes erupted at the end of the main demonstration.

Some activists wearing masks threw projectiles and knocked down a traffic light before police charged at them, using tear gas and water cannons. Thirty people were arrested in Paris, police said.

Clashes were also reported in Bordeaux, Toulouse and the western city of Rennes.

At the Invalides, protesters carrying a banner that read “Citizens in danger” marched at the front of the procession and held coffin-shaped boards in memory of those killed.

Paris deployed 5,000 police around the capital, notably around government buildings and the Champs-Elysees shopping area. About 80,000 police fanned out nationwide.

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Demonstrations have been going on for 10 weeks in a row (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The capital and much of France have endured weeks of protests over economic demands by French workers and students that at times descended into violence. The grassroots protests started two months ago over fuel taxes but became a broader revolt against economic problems.

According to the Interior Ministry, there were 27,000 protesters across France by early Saturday afternoon, down from 32,000 at the same time the week before.

Mr Macron is facing a plethora of demands ranging from the reintroduction of France’s wealth tax on the country’s richest people to the implementation of popular votes that allow citizens to propose new laws.

The president launched his grand debate this week during meetings with mayors and local officials. The three-month-long debate involves a series of meetings organised by citizens, groups and elected officials to enable the French to express their views on the economy and democracy.

Mr Macron has already cancelled a fuel tax hike and released other funds to help French workers. He said he is open to discussions but has warned he will not give up on his major reforms, including the touchy issue of changing France’s pension system later this year.

“We do not believe in the grand debate,” said Jonathan Gaby, a demonstrator from the Paris suburbs. “We won’t decide, the government will decide, in the end.”

PA

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