Mon, 27 May 2019

Yellow Vest Protesters Still Blocking French Streets

Voice of America
17 Dec 2018, 01:05 GMT+10

Yellow vest protesters are occupying dozens of traffic roundabouts in France, even as their economic reform movement appears to be losing momentum on the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations.

Some protesters remained Sunday despite a call by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to free the streets.

Eight people have died in incidents tied to the yellow vest movement, mostly from traffic accidents linked to roads blocked by protesters.

On Saturday, protesters took to the streets in cities across France, including Paris, but in far fewer numbers than previous weekends.

The protests began in November against fuel tax hikes but have morphed into a general expression of anger at the government of President Emanuel Macron.

Demonstrations were more subdued nationwide Saturday, partly due to concessions made by earlier this week, as well as a combination of cold weather and rain.

About 8,000 police and 14 armored vehicles were deployed to prevent a repeat of previous protests that turned violent, with protesters looting stores and setting up burning barricades in the streets.

Police said more than 115 people were taken into custody Saturday.

A week ago, French officials said more than 100,000 people had joined protests around the country. This week, police counted just over 33,000 protesters nationwide.

The weeks of protests have exposed intense resentment among non-city residents who feel that Macron, a former investment banker, is out of touch with struggling middle class and blue-collar workers.

Government officials are concerned that repeated outbreaks of violence would weaken the economy and raise doubts about the government's survival.

Officials are also concerned about far-right, anarchist and anti-capitalist groups like Black Bloc that have mimicked the 'yellow vest' movement.

The 'yellow vest' movement was named after the safety jackets French motorists are required to keep in their vehicles, which the protesters wear at demonstrations.

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