Clashes in Paris as yellow vests mark first anniversary

A woman speaks to riot policemen during an anti-government demonstration in Paris in September 2019

The protests first erupted in November a year ago over fuel price rises, but grew to cover wider grievances, including stagnating wages, living costs and economic inequality.

Police have confirmed that at least 33 people have already been arrested today, while they have carried out "more than 1,000 checks".

The interior ministry put the number of demonstrators at 28,600 nationwide but the organisers said almost 40,000 people had rallied.

The protesters made a decision to use yellow vests, part of the standard safety kit in French cars, to make their members more easily visible.

The nationwide protests were meant to send a message to French President Emmanuel Macron, whose government has been accused of ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens.

Protests have lost strength in recent months, going from tens of thousands of participants to just a few thousand, but its leaders have called to remobilise this Saturday, to celebrate the first anniversary.

At the Place d'Italie, protesters set trash bins on fire and hurled projectiles at riot police while building barricades, Reuters reported.

Paris police prefect Didier Lallement cancelled permission for a scheduled demonstration in view of the violence.

"It's pathetic that the demonstration was banned", said Catherine Van Puymbroeck, 49. Police responded with tear gas and blasts from water cannon.

Around the southern city of Marseilles, yellow-vested protesters gathered at traffic circles to remind the government of their discontent.

A poll by the Elabe institute published Wednesday said 55 percent of French people support or have sympathy for the yellow vests, although 63 percent said they do not want the protests to begin in earnest again.

Pollyanna Ruiz, an expert on media at the U.K.'s University of Sussex, told Anadolu Agency that the Yellow Vest movement did not spread far beyond its core group because its demonstrations were formed by very specific dynamics.

Mr Macron also offered additional measures including a cut to pension tax and a rise in the minimum wage.

Ruiz said a lack of leadership and various ideologies hampered the movement.

There were still a few scattered clashes in Les Halles area in central Paris by early evening.

The next major street challenge to Macron, however, may not come from this weekend's protests but a strike called by unions on December 5 to rally against his planned pension reforms.



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