"Yellow Vests" stage more protests against Macron's policy, but participant number drops

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-16 04:46:01|Editor: Chengcheng
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"Yellow Vests" protesters gather at the Opera Square in Paris, France, on Dec. 15, 2018. French government planned tough security measures by mobilizing thousands of officers and using armored vehicles to handle more threats of violence as "Yellow Vests" are set to stage a fresh round of nationwide protests on Saturday, despite President Emmanuel Macron's measures seeking to quell public anger over poor revenue and soaring living costs. (Xinhua/Chen Yichen)

PARIS, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of people wearing yellow vests took to the streets across France on Saturday to protest against rising fuel prices and high costs of living.

But the movement appeared to be waning days after French President Emmanuel Macron offered more concessions.

By 6:00 pm local time (1700 GMT) on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said nationwide marches had mustered 66,000 participants compared to 125,000 on Dec. 8 at the corresponding time.

In Paris, by 2:00 pm local time (1300 GMT) the number was put at 2,200, down from 10,000 a week ago.

Saturday was the fifth weekend day of protests coordinated by "Yellow Vests", the high-visibility jackets all motorists in France carry in their cars, via social media against the French president's economic reform and fiscal strategy. Despite determination of some to continue the action, the movement seemed to have lost momentum.

"The mobilization has weakened, which is from my point of view, it's necessary because it has been overwhelmingly responded to their demands and because the time for dialogue has come," Richard Ferrand, the National Assembly president told CNews television.

Unlike the last weekends which have been marred by vandalism and violent scruffles with security forces, the fresh wave of countrywide protests were relatively calm.

According to Paris prefecture, 168 people had been detained in the French capital, while more than 100 were still in police custody. Seven demonstrators were injured in Paris and several others were reported wounded in Nantes in southwestern France.

Defying freezing temperatures, demonstrators walked in the Champs Elysees avenue, waving tricolor flags and chanting the national anthem and anti-Macron slogans under the watch of security forces poured massively in the capital to prevent chaotic situation that have dented the world top tourist destination for weeks.

Some of them held a sit-in near the Palais de Tokyo museum in the 16th district of Paris after a brief standoff with anti-riot police who fired tear gas to push back the crowd which tried to break through security cordons.

Gathered in the Opera square, they called for a "citizens' initiative referendum" to allow people to have stronger say to define the economic and social roadmap for the eurozone's second main powerhouse.

By nightfall, security forces used water cannon to disperse the crowd in the Champs Elysees where traffic resumed and metro stations reopened after last protesters and small groups of troublemakers had quit the area.

"Yellow Vests" movement began on Nov. 17 to denounce the squeeze on household spending triggered by the president's plan to hike fuel tax to encourage motorists to switch to cleaner vehicles.

Despite having no leader, it has since turned into a bigger uprising which has lured people of all ages and backgrounds, with many criticizing the ex-investment banker for pursuing policies they say favor the rich and do nothing to help the poor.

With the social action posing a serious challenge to his leadership, Macron had offered a series of concessions that began with a review of the rate of tax on diesel and petrol every three months to take into account changes in global prices.

Failed to quell the anger, he capitulated earlier this month over plans for higher fuel taxes, his major U-turn since he took office about 18 months ago.

In a televised address to the nation on Monday, the president offered more concessions to dampen social roar via "an economic and social emergency plan," offering an increase in minimum wages and tax breaks.

He also decided tax-free status of overtime hour, cut taxes for pensioners and end-of-year bonus offered to workers.

Two polls published on Tuesday, following Macron's concessions, showed almost half of people thought that the protests should end to pave the way for dialogue with the government.

"France needs calm, order and a return to normal," the 40-year-old president told a news conference after a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels on Friday.

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KEY WORDS: yellow vest