PARIS: 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, protesters answered a call from a prominent and provocative protester promoting a march starting at the Invalides monument in Paris, home to Napoleon’s tomb, to remember the 10 people killed in protest-related traffic accidents and hundreds injured since the movement kicked off Nov. 17.
Police has been criticized by protesters for the use of rubber projectiles that have left dozens of people injured.
“It’s not normal to treat people the way we are being treated. We have injured people every Saturday,” said Juliette Rebet, a demonstrator marching in Paris.
At the Invalides, protesters carrying a banner that read “Citizens in danger” marched at the front of the procession and held coffin-shaped black boards in memory of those killed.
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.
Protesters marched peacefully in the French capital. Twelve people were arrested by the early afternoon, according to figures provided by Paris police.
The capital and much of France have endured weeks of protests that at times descended into violence. Saturday marked the 10th straight weekend of yellow vest protests, and will test whether Macron’s debate is diminishing the movement’s momentum.
The grassroots protests started two months ago over fuel taxes but became a broader revolt against economic problems. The movement showed signed of abating during the festive period, but more than 80,000 people protested across France last weekend — up from 50,000 the week before.
Macron is facing a plethora of demands ranging from the re-introduction of France’s wealth tax, called the ISF, on the country’s richest people, to the implementation of popular votes that allow citizens to propose new laws.
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.
“We do not believe in the grand debate,” said Jonathan Gaby, a demonstrator from the Paris suburbs. “We won’t decide, the government will decide in the end.”