Saturday 04 July 2020
News ID: 72785
Publish Date: 16 November 2019 - 22:23
On First Anniversary of Movement:

PARIS (Dispatches) -- French police fired water cannon and tear gas in Paris on Saturday to drive back protesters marking the first anniversary of anti-government "yellow vest” demonstrations.
Demonstrators, many clad in black and hiding their faces, attacked an HSBC bank branch at the Place d’Italie. They set trash bins on fire and hurled cobblestones and bottles at riot police while building barricades.
Several cars were set ablaze. Police responded with tear gas and a water cannon.
 "Our response will be very firm. All those who are hiding their face, all those who are throwing stones are going to be called in for questioning,” Paris police prefect Didier Lallement told a news conference.
Some 105 people had been taken in for questioning, he said.
Earlier, clashes broke out between demonstrators and police near the Porte de Champerret, close to the Arc de Triomphe, as protesters were preparing to march across town toward Gare d’Austerlitz.
Police also intervened to prevent a few hundred demonstrators from occupying the Paris ring road.
The yellow vest protests, named for the high-visibility jackets worn by demonstrators, erupted in November 2018 over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living. The demonstrations spiraled into a broader movement against President Emmanuel Macron and his economic reforms.
The movement’s leaders called for people to turn out on Saturday to mark the first anniversary. They want the actions on Saturday -- their traditional day for protests -- and also Sunday -- the anniversary day -- to show Macron they remain a force to be reckoned with.
Around 200 demonstrations are planned, with authorities expecting several thousand to rally in the capital.
"We're here even if Macron doesn't like it" demonstrators chanted as they arrived on the outskirts of Paris Saturday, with others singing "Happy Birthday".
Protests have been banned near tourists spots such as the Eiffel Tower and 20 subway stations were closed on Saturday.
The yellow vest movement was one of the toughest challenges to Macron’s presidency. It evolved from nationwide road blockades into a series of angry demonstrations that pitted rowdy protesters with police and ravaged Paris and other major cities in the country. At its peak in late 2018, the movement grew to up to 300,000 people.
The yellow vest crisis forced Macron to make policy concessions and delay the next big wave of reforms, including overhauling the pension and unemployment systems.
Macron’s plans to simplify the unwieldy and expensive pension system, which he says will make it fairer, is particularly unpopular.
Trade unions have called on railway workers, Paris public transport staff, truck drivers and civil servants to strike against the pensions overhaul on Dec. 5, and in some cases beyond.
Students and yellow vest protesters have called for people to join forces with the unions. One slogan written on a wall on Place d’Italie on Saturday said: "December 5. Early retirement for Macron.”
France has a long tradition of violent protest, but the ferocity of last winter's demonstrations and allegations of police brutality shocked the country.
Officials said the magnitude of the weekend protests is far from certain but deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez noted a "more pronounced interest" than in previous weeks, and police would plan their deployment accordingly.
A poll by the Elabe institute published Wednesday said 55 percent of French people support or have sympathy for the yellow vests.

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