"Yellow Vests" stage 23rd protest amid fears of violence
21 Apr 2019, 00:15 ( 1 Month ago)
The "Yellow Vest" movement which symbolizes social rebellion against French President Emmanuel Macron continued for the 23rd demonstration in a row on Saturday, promising to draw bigger numbers.
Five months since last November when people from all the ages and backgrounds took to French streets driven by anger over a perceived squeeze on household income, their anger seemed cemented.
"With favorable weather and following disappointing announcements of the head of state, there will be a lot of people," said Benjamin Cauchy, one of the "Yellow Vest" representatives.
The spontaneous action had drew 287,710 people at its highest. Since then, it has been losing steam after Macron offered concessions worth 10 billion euros (11.24 billion U.S. dollars) to improve purchasing power and launched a series of public debates that he promised will lead to concrete measures.
Despite signs of weakening, some of "Yellow Vest" protesters had sought to maintain pressure on the French government to ensure their claims of better fiscal policy and improved public services should be transformed into deeds.
The 23rd protest, called as an "ultimatum 2" to the French president, came days after a fire ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral. Demonstrators expressed frustration that their request to improve the daily life of the needy has not received anything like the outpouring of millions of euros to help build the landmark church.
"Millions for Notre Dame, what for the poor?" or "Victor Hugo thanks you for Notre Dame, think about the miserable", read out banners in Paris rally.
"I'm sorry, and with all due respect to our heritage, but I am just taken aback by these astronomic amounts," Ingrid Levavasseur, one of the movement's founding leader said in a video posted on her Facebook account.
"After five months on the streets, this is totally at odds with what we have seen," she said.
Pledged donations from French billionaires and companies for the restoration of fire-ravaged centuries-old cathedral are approaching 1 billion euros, shortly after Macron announced, in a televised speech, a fundraising campaign to reconstruct the building.
As previous demonstrations, authorities banned rallies at the Champs Elysees Avenue and the Arc de Triomphe monument, flashpoint of clashes with the police and vandalism in recent protests.
In Paris, which had been chosen as the focus of the 23th weekend of protest, the debut was relatively calm when people marched peacefully waving tricolor flags and chanted anti-Macron slogans, like previous actions.
However, sporadic clashes broke out in the French capital. Some individuals torched rubbish bins and motorcycles and pelted police with projectiles that responded by firing tear gas.
On Friday, French Interior Minister Chritophe Castaner feared a repeat of violent protest on March 16 following a potential return of rioters who had the in intention to wreak havoc in Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier and Bordeaux.
Some 60,000 police officers were mobilized across French cities and more than 11,000 checks have been conducted by the afternoon. Paris prefecture said 126 protesters were arrested, of which 56 were placed under police custody.