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33,500 Yellow Vest protesters in France - ministry

Students also pledging their support to the Yello Vest movement, Paris
Students also pledging their support to the Yello Vest movement, Paris Rfi / Anne-Marie Bissada

Tear gas is fired in Paris as the 5th round of protests by France's Yellow Vests continue. Demonstrations are reported to have been largely peaceful, but with a much lower turnout than last week.

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Yellow Vests, midday December 15th
  • At 16:40, the Champs Elysées is nearly empty excepting a few sparse protesters. Police say that some 120 have been arrested in Paris.
  • The Champs Elyseés Avenue in Paris remains closed with some 500 protesters present. Police fired tear gas amid reports of tension between authorities and protesters.
  • "Yellow Vest movement is nearing its end", says ex-president François Hollande.
  • A driver dies in Belgium near the French border after colliding with a truck that slowed down before a Yellow Vest road blockade.
  • A thousand protesters in Paris, 8,000 members of the police and 14 armored vehicles. 69,000 throughout France.
  • After having invested the Champs-Elysées, the "yellow vests" left the famous avenue to try to go elsewhere in Paris. We do not know where they want to go. 
  • At the same time, other "yellow vests" were mobilized at Opera to hold a press conference announced for 13 hours..
  • The demonstrators started to leave the area to try to join the procession of the Champs-Elysées but found themselves blocked by the grid of the police force. 
  • In the rest of France, the "yellow vests" block roundabouts, tolls and have been identified in cities such as Marseille or Bordeaux. But not yet a figure on France.

 

President Emmanuel Macron's address on Monday, December 10

Groups of defiant "yellow vest" demonstrators faced off with tens of thousands of police around France on Saturday, but their numbers appeared lower on a fifth and decisive weekend for the anti-government movement.

President Emmanuel Macron, facing the biggest crisis of his presidency, announced a series of concessions on Monday to defuse the "yellow vest" explosive crisis, which swelled up from rural and small-town France last month.

He is hoping the package of tax and minimum wage measures for low-income workers, coupled with a terror attack on Tuesday night in Strasbourg and bitter winter weather, will bring calm to the country.

By lunchtime, crowds in Paris were much smaller than last Saturday and there were no reports of serious violence from regional France after a month of clashes and disruption.

Preparing for 5th Yellow Vests protest in Paris

 

Police had arrested around 60 people 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.

"I've come to demonstrate peacefully; as soon as there's violence, I'm leaving," Monaem Zarhouni, a 43-year-old father of two, told AFP in the capital on Saturday.

"My wife's unemployed too and we live on 700 euros (800 dollars) a month. It's tough, we're always struggling," he said.

"Last time, we were here for taxes," a 28-year-old "yellow vest" called Jeremy told AFP as he arrived on the Champs-Elysees in the freezing cold.

"This is for the institutions: we want more direct democracy," he said, adding that people needed to "shout to make themselves heard".

Throughout the morning, riot police played a game of cat-and-mouse with groups of hundreds of protesters moving around the centre of Paris, much of which has been cordoned off from traffic.

There were isolated incidents of tear gas being fired, but a fraction of the amount used on the weekends of December 8 or December 1 when graffiti was daubed on the Arc de Triomphe in scenes that shocked France.

Outside Paris, groups of "yellow vests" continued to occupy roundabouts to slow down traffic, and there were jams on the A6, A7, A61 and A64 motorways in southern France.

Authorities reported the seventh death linked to the demonstrations in a fatal road accident Friday evening near the France-Belgium border caused by a blockade.

More than 1,400 people have been injured since the protests began on November 17.

France 24 reports from Yellow Vest protest scene

 

 

Public opinion falls after Macron announces measures

Until this week, a clear majority of French people had backed the protests, which sprung up initially over tax hikes on transport fuel before snowballing into wider opposition to Macron's pro-business agenda and style of governing.

But two polls published on Tuesday -- in the wake of Macron's concessions -- suggested the country was now split broadly 50-50 on whether the protests should continue.

"We expect slightly fewer people (in the streets) but individuals who are slightly more determined," junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said late Friday.

Around 8,000 police were on duty in Paris on Saturday, the same number as last weekend, backed up by 14 armoured vehicles, water cannons and horses, which are used for crowd control.

Around 69,000 security forces were mobilised across France, down from 89,000 last Saturday when 2,000 people were detained.

"That people demonstrate, no problem, but the vandalism is appalling," Maria, who manages the Le Vin Coeur restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris told AFP on Saturday morning.

Like thousands of other business and restaurant owners across the capital, she was apprehensive and ready to pull down her shutters and close at the first whiff of teargas.
France "needs calm, order and to go back to its normal functioning," Macron said Friday.
   

 

Government urges calm before Christmas season

On Thursday, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux called on protesters to stay at home on what is normally a busy shopping weekend ahead of Christmas.

"It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again," he said.

He was speaking in the wake of an attack Tuesday in the eastern city of Strasbourg, which left four dead and 12 wounded.

In a bid to end the protests, Macron announced a package of measures on Monday estimated by economists to cost up to 15 billion euros ($17 billion).

He cancelled planned fuel tax hikes, offered a rise in the minimum wage, tax relief for pensioners and tax-free overtime for workers in 2019.

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