Thousands of yellow vest protesters rallied in several French cities for a tenth consecutive weekend on Saturday, despite a national debate launched this week by President Emmanuel Macron aimed at assuaging their anger.
In Paris, several thousand people, many waving placards calling for Macron to resign or condemning police violence, marched peacefully through the Left Bank in freezing temperatures. "Parisians, rise up!" they chanted, urging residents of the capital to join the movement which has been driven from the start by rural and small town France. Paris deployed 5,000 police around the capital, notably around government buildings and the Champs-Elysees, stage of recent violence. About 80,000 police are fanned out nationwide. Demonstrations also took place in Toulouse, Lyon, Rouen and other cities. Last week, an estimated 80,000 people took part in protests that were markedly less violent than several previous editions, which ended in clashes with police, the torching of cars and shopfronts being smashed.
Turnout was being closely watched for signs of possible fatigue in the movement as it enters its third month and Macron's "great national debate" gains momentum.
The yellow vest movement originally started against fuel tax hikes but has snowballed into a wider revolt against a president and government accused of being out-of-touch with ordinary people. Many of the yellow vest demonstrators are demanding that centrist President Emmanuel Macron resign, a demand dismissed as undemocratic by the government. Macron made multiple concessions that failed to extinguish the anger of the yellow vest movement, which is named after the fluorescent protective garments the protesters wear. He abandoned the tax hike and announced last month a series of measures to boost purchasing power. The package, estimated at 10 billion euros ($11.46 billion), includes a 100-euro monthly increase to the minimum salary. Saturday marked the 10th straight weekend of yellow vest protests, and will test whether Macron's debate is diminishing the movement's momentum. Macron launched his grand debate this week during meetings with mayors and local officials. The three-month-long debate consists of a series of meetings organized by ordinary citizens, associations and elected officials to enable the French to express their views on the economy and democracy. Macron said he is open to discussions but has already warned he won't give up on his promises, including the touchy issue of reforming pensions.
Compiled from wires