Demonstrators of “yellow vests” storm the French ministry, 35 people arrested | World news
Protesters of “yellow vests” returned in force to the streets of France this weekend, clashing with police in several cities and pushing their way into a ministry in Paris using a forklift.
The Home Office estimated 50,000 demonstrators took to the streets on Saturday, up from 32,000 on December 29, when the movement appeared to be weakening after staging a series of weekly demonstrations on Saturdays since mid-November. .
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, who was evacuated from his ministry in central Paris when a handful of demonstrators in high-visibility vests smashed down the large wooden door of the ministry compound, denounced the break-in as an “unacceptable attack on the Republic”.
“Some protesters yellow vests and other people dressed in black (…) seized a construction vehicle that was in the neighboring street and smashed the entrance gate of the ministry,” he said. he told AFP.
They briefly entered the yard where they smashed two cars, smashed windows and then escaped, he added, saying police were trying to identify them from security footage.
President Emmanuel Macron did not specifically mention the incident, but tweeted his condemnation of “extreme violence” against “the Republic, its guards, its representatives and its symbols”.
Griveaux criticized the yellow vests movement on Friday, calling those still involved “agitators” who sought to “overthrow the government”.
According to the police, some 3,500 demonstrators showed up on the Champs-Elysées on Saturday morning.
Some then headed south of the river to the wealthy neighborhood around Boulevard St Germain, where they set a car and several motorcycles on fire and set up barricades on fire, prompting police to fire tear gas. to try to disperse them.
Police say 35 people were arrested
Protesters took to the streets of several other cities in France, with up to 2,000 people in Rouen, northwest of Paris, where some erected barricades on fire. A protester was injured and at least two others were arrested, police said.
Some 4,600 protesters took to the streets of the southwestern city of Bordeaux, and some threw stones at police who responded with tear gas and water cannons.
Five police officers were injured and 11 people arrested, local authorities said, adding that several cars had been set on fire and windows smashed.
Further south in Toulouse, 22 people were arrested following clashes that erupted after 2,000 people showed up to demonstrate.
And in the center-east of Lyon, several thousand people took to the streets, blocking access to the A7 motorway and causing traffic jams for those returning from Christmas holidays in the mountains.
The yellow vests movement started in rural France because of plans to increase fuel taxes.
But it then turned into a larger revolt against Macron’s pro-market policies and style of government, with 282,000 people joining the first rally on Saturday, November 17.
Macron initially refused to make any concessions, but in mid-December, after weeks of violence, he abandoned the planned fuel tax hike and pledged additional cash for minimum wage workers as well as tax cuts for retirees.
The protests turned into the biggest political crisis in Macron’s 20-month presidency and took his popularity ratings to an all-time low.
If public anger seemed to subside following his concessions and during the holiday period, the brief arrest on Wednesday of Eric Drouet, one of the leaders of the movement, seemed to rekindle the resentment of his supporters.
The latest opinion poll, released Thursday by Odoxa Dentsu, showed 55% support the protests – a figure which, although lower than November’s 75%, is still large enough to suggest that the anti-austerity movement is retaining its momentum. political weight.
Former cinema icon Brigitte Bardot, known today for her right-wing views and animal rights activism, said on Sunday she understood what was driving the yellow vest movement.
“When I see the millions spent on incredibly mundane things, when I see politicians using private planes and chauffeured cars to get around (…) all that money spent is unacceptable,” she told the Midi Libre newspaper.
“Rather, it should be given to those in need. “