Although the French government of President Emmanuel Macron had asked for restraint from the side of the so-called protesting gilets jaunes (yellow vests) given the terrorist attack on a Strasbourg Christmas market earlier this week, some 60,000 of them showed up all around France to protest again.
On the Champs-Elysées in Paris, where most of the media covered the protests, it soon came to confrontations between demonstrators of the "yellow vests" and the riot police. Protesters threw bottles and stones at the police forces who reacted with tear gas and rubber bullets. The security forces arrested 400 people.
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In the French capital, the yellow vests could eventually mobilize some 3,000 demonstrators for their fifth Saturday action in a row. According to the ministry, around 66,000 people had been manifesting throughout France. Last week 136,000 were counted.
The situation was pretty well under control, certainly compared to the violence of last week.
After the out-of-control protests of the past few weeks, strict security measures had been put in place. Some 8,000 agents were on site in most cities. In Paris, to protect against vandalism, fourteen armored vehicles were used.
The metropolitan police feared that violent rioters would join the demonstrators again. 69,000 agents were deployed throughout France, compared with 89,000 a week ago. Protests also took place in Bordeaux and Toulouse.
In the past two Saturdays, some 136,000 people on average took to the streets in France. In several places, it involved violent incidents.
The actions are an important test for President Emmanuel Macron. He barely gets the protest under control, despite several concessions. Macron sent a call on Saturday urging for "calm", "order" and "a return to the normal functioning" of the country.
Meanwhile his popularity ratings have plummeted to all-time lows. Most protesters want Macron’s government, which has an absolute majority in parliament, to step down and call new elections. Opinion polls show that the extreme left of Mr Jean-Luc Melenchon and the right-wing nationalist party of Ms Marine Le Pen would be the victors in that case.
Belgium and the Netherlands also saw similar yellow vest protests, but they were smaller in scale. It appears that the upcoming Christmas period arrives at a perfect time for Mr Macron
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