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Yellow Vest protesters hold a picnic for 15th round of demonstrations

Yellow Vest protesters have a picnic at Chambord chateau, 23 February 2019.
Yellow Vest protesters have a picnic at Chambord chateau, 23 February 2019. Photo: Jean-Francois Monier/AFP

The French Yellow Vests, who for three months have protested against the tax and social policies of President Emmanuel Macron, took to the streets on Saturday for the 15th consecutive round of demonstrations.

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“We’re thinking about the future of our children, and the single mothers who are currently struggling,” said 58-year-old widow Sylvie, who spoke to the AFP news agency. Sylvie was part of a group of Yellow Vests who gathered at the Chambord chateau to hold a picnic.

Chambord, a popular tourist attraction in the Centre-Val de Loire region, was built by King Francis I and was chosen by Macron to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2017.

In Paris, hundreds of protesters were gathered on the Champs d’Elysee at midday, according to a journalist with the AFP news agency. Two marches are expected in the French capital as well as one in the city’s “beautiful quartiers”.

Yellow Vest protesters march in Paris, 23 February 2019.
Yellow Vest protesters march in Paris, 23 February 2019. Photo: Zakaria Abdelkafi/AFP

Nearly 4,000 people had said by Friday night that they would take part in the demonstrations, a figure that doesn't necessarily represent the number of protesters who will actually turn out. Some 5,000 “gilet jaunes” marched in the capital last Saturday, according to the authorities.

Daily newspaper Le Parisien led with an article entitled “Breathless” on its Saturday front-page with a photo of a single Yellow Vest protester occupying part of a roundabout.

Saturday's Le Parisien describes the Yellow Vest movement as "breathless".
Saturday's Le Parisien describes the Yellow Vest movement as "breathless". Image: Le Parisien

The Yellow Vest movement counted some 282,000 people when the protests began on 17 November. The demonstrations were marked by their apolitical nature and lack of alignment with any trade unions, focusing on the increase in fuel prices and diminishing purchasing power.

The movement represented one of the worse crises to hit Macron’s term of office since he came to power in 2017.

However, there were no more than 41,000 people involved in protests last Saturday, according to official statistics that the Yellow Vest movement itself contests.

“A movement which fades,” said Le Parisien, one of the only French dailies to consecrate a significant part of its coverage to Yellow Vest protests.

Fears over violence

Violent clashes that have accompanied each demonstration as well as the inability of the movement to unite around one common cause or leader have led to a diminishing turnout for the regular protests.

French people largely support the protest movement, although more than half the population believes that it should end, according to a survey by Ifop published by Le Journal du Dimanche on 17 February.

Demonstrations in Toulouse, 23 February 2019.
Demonstrations in Toulouse, 23 February 2019. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

After three months of protests, the authorities have increasingly tried to take control of the situation. The government rushed through some 10 billion euros of concessions including tax cuts and an increase in the minimum wage.

Macron has also launched his “big debate” initiative with the aim of giving angry Yellow Vests the opportunity to express their frustration.

Eleven people have been killed since the start of the demonstrations, most of those have been accidents in the vicinity of barricades erected by the Yellow Vests.

Protesters frequently point the finger at “police violence” as the reason behind the nearly 2,000 people injured during the demonstrations.

More than 200 reports of abuse carried out by security forces have been made to the internal police watchdog.

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