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Yellow Vests scattered for Act 28 protests

Several hundred people joined an authorised Yellow Vests march in Paris, 25 May 2019.
Several hundred people joined an authorised Yellow Vests march in Paris, 25 May 2019. RFI/Mike Woods

Several thousand people joined the 28th consecutive Saturday of anti-government Yellow Vest protests around France on Saturday. In Paris, a number of scattered rallies and strategies led some to question where the movement was going.

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Estimates of numbers of participants at Yellow Vest demonstrations from both state officials and protest organisers have been declining over the past weeks and months, and even a slight uptick in turnout on Saturday also matched a longer-term trend of declining participation.

The interior ministry estimated 3,200 people around France including 1,200 in Paris had demonstrated by midday, slightly up from what they were the previous week, which saw the lowest turnout since the movement began last November.

While organisers were expected to claim numbers were higher, turnout in recent weeks is a fraction of what it was in the early weeks of the movement, when over 300,000 people were participating in nationwide rallies against taxes and the cost of living.

Different events around Paris

The various events around the city of Paris reflected different views on how to continue the movement.

Following warnings about unauthorised demonstrations from the Paris police chief, security forces played cat-and-mouse early in the day with protesters in the vicinity of the Champs-Elysées avenue, from which protests have been banned since March.

Later in the day, the same group converged at the central Place de la République public square, where police fired tear gas to disperse projectile-throwing protesters.

Several hundred people joined the only authorised march in the capital, leaving from Père Lachaise cemetery in early afternoon for the Place de la Bastille before turning towards the Sacré-Coeur monument in the north of the city.

“I hope others realise it’s better to unite at a declared march, rather than to spread out and fight the security forces around Paris,” said organiser Sophie Tissier, who also put together previous declared demonstrations.

“There are a lot fewer people now, we have to be reasonable, to get public opinion on our side and to give people the possibility to come and march,” she continued. “That’s only possible with authorised demonstrations. We won’t gain anything with violence.”

The march was calm not marked by the same heavy security presence as unauthorised gatherings, while participants sounded out many of the demands they believe are still unanswered despite announcements of measures the government estimated to be worth 17 billion euros.

French President Emmanuel Macron "only gave in a bit to pensioners [in order to] avoid a thrashing” from voters, argued Gabriel Lemaire, 47, from northern France. “He also claims credit for bonuses [that raised some incomes], but it was only because of us he did that."

But he and others were less sure whether declared or undeclared demonstrations were the best way to continue.

“The cost of diesel fuel has kept going up, so we’re still here,” said Mélanie Le Jeune, 24, adding she has seen the movement disperse since it began, last November.

“It’s part of the movement, but they’re scattered around four different spots, and it’s not clear which one to choose,” she said.

Yellow Vests in Macron’s hometown

Elsewhere in the country, a march in Macron’s hometown of Amiens gathered 1,200 people according to state officials, 2,000 according to organisers.

Other estimates included 2,000 people in Toulouse, 950 in Montpellier, 850 in Strasbourg and several dozen in Lyon.

There were also 500 people in Nantes and 600 in Dijon, according to official estimates.

(with wires)

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