May 13, 2019 | Story | No Comments
The defiant Yellow Vests, though in dwindling numbers, have marched across France for the 26th straight weekend. In Nantes and Lyon the rallies ended up in clashes between the demonstrators and police.
A week after the lowest turnout since the movement began as a protest against a planned fuel tax hike in November, the Yellow Vests, who are now protesting President Emmanuel Macron’s broader reform agenda and supposed indifference towards the fate of the ordinary French people, once again took to the streets of the French cities.
Nantes and Lyon saw some major demonstrations on Saturday, as thousands of people joined the rallies organized by the protest movement in both cities.
In Lyon, 2,500 people hit the streets while in Nantes the police put the turnout at 2,200, according to the French media.
While the processions were largely peaceful, some clashes between the protesters and the police did erupt as some black-hooded demonstrators hurled bottles at the officers and smashed shop windows in Nantes. Police responded with tear gas and also used water cannons to disperse the crowd.
The angry demonstrators were particularly dissatisfied with the concessions the French government made under pressure from the protest movement following the so-called national debate launched by Macron.
“The ‘grand debate’ was a smokescreen. Today they’re smoking us out with tear gas,” a 43-year-old protester, who identified himself as Mickael, told Reuters. “But we won’t cave in. Yes, we’re fewer than at the start, but when the others come back, we’ll still be here and we’ll still be angry.”
In Lyon, the atmosphere at the rallies was tense as well. At some point, the protesters started pelting the officers with bottles, stones, and firecrackers. The police retaliated with the massive use of tear gas.
The situation spiraled into clashes between the Yellow Vests and the police, which left one officer and one protester injured.
In Paris, which has seen some of the worst street violence in its modern history during the Yellow Vest protests, the situation remained largely peaceful this time.
Hundreds of people marched in the rain through the streets of the French capital starting from the Jussieu University in solidarity with the teachers, who went on strike earlier this week in protest against an education reform project.
“It’s going to be a day in support of parents, families and everyone in the education system,” Jean-Christophe Valentin, a city hall worker at the rally, told AFP.
Some Yellow Vest movement activists also used the occasion to make some political statements ahead of the forthcoming European Parliament elections. Jerome Rodrigues, a well-known figure within the movement, who lost his eye after it was hit by a rubber bullet fired by police, urged the French to use the vote as a way to show their dissatisfaction with Macron’s policies.
“I’m calling on Europeans to make an anti-Macron vote, even if he just finishes in second place, it would take him down a notch, bring him back down to earth so he can serve us instead of the rich,” he said in Lyon.
Demonstrations were also held Montpellier, where some 1,300 people took to the streets, and Bordeaux, which saw some 700 people joining the Yellow Vests march.
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