Yellow vests protesters return to streets but power questioned by turnout

Questions are being asked about the movement’s future after the weak turnout

Yellow vest protesters escape teargas fired by French police in Paris. AP
Yellow vest protesters escape teargas fired by French police in Paris. AP

About 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Paris for a return to the streets of the yellow vest protest that is demanding an end to modernisation policies that they say favour the rich.

As two marches set off from different parts of Paris, police fired tear gas at one group and there were reports of vandalism, looting and some violence.

Police had arrested 222 people by mid-afternoon, many for carrying potential weapons. At least one car and rubbish bins were set on fire and street furniture toppled by demonstrators.

Before the pandemic lockdowns, the yellow vest movement, named after the high-vis jackets protesters wore, attracted tens of thousands to regular rallies against President Emmanuel Macron and his perceived prioritisation of business over ordinary families.

Questions are now being asked about the movement’s future after the weak turnout.

Stephane, a 48-year-old who had travelled from the Paris suburbs to join the rally, said the economic collapse caused by the pandemic will help their cause.

"[It] has been struggling for a few months but it will never die," he said. "As more people are laid off from their jobs, they'll increasingly wake up."

Michael, a 43-year old protester disagreed. "The movement is dead, I'll say that clearly, but we're here because we have nothing to lose. This is a kind of last stand.”

Hundreds of police were deployed at the Champs-Elysees avenue where authorities have banned demonstrations.

Officers checked the identity cards of passers-by and searched their bags, while many store fronts were boarded up in case of violence.

"We can't have destruction and chaos on the Champs-Elysees," Paris police chief Didier Lallement said Saturday morning. "There's a need for calm on this avenue which is a showcase for our country. So I banned the demonstrations."

Ahead of Saturday's protests, police had said they expected up to 5,000 people to attend, with 1,000 of them potentially violent.

Published: September 12, 2020 08:52 PM

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