Yellow Vests Return to the Streets to Challenge the Government

General News
Manifestation of "yellow vests", Lille, January 3, 2019.

Toulouse, Bordeaux, Rouen, Paris … For Act VIII of the movement, yellow vests must gather in several cities. Will they be able to mobilise at the beginning of January?

After the arrest of one of their media figures, Eric Drouet , the Yellow Vests call Saturday, January 5 for an eighth day of national action to revive their movement and challenge the government, which denounces “insurrection” and claims the return to order.

Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux , places of the Capitol and Wilson in Toulouse … For this first mobilization of the year 2019, the “yellow vests” are given appointments in symbolic places , insensitive to the concessions of the executive and the a major national debate that will open in mid-January to bring out claims.

In Paris , two main actions have been declared in the prefecture: a march will leave the City Hall in the early afternoon to rally the National Assembly and a rally is planned on the Champs-Elysees , a hotbed of contestation during previous weekends.

Around 8:30, about 15 CRS vans were stationed at the bottom of the famous artery and near the Arc de Triomphe, but only a handful of protesters were visible for the time being, said an AFP journalist. The traffic was also normal throughout the network of metros and buses in Paris, according to the RATP.

It is near the famous Parisian artery that Eric Drouet, controversial figure of the movement, was arrested on Wednesday night and placed in custody about ten hours, provoking the outrage of the opposition and “yellow vests” , who denounced a “political” arrest and promised not to “let go of anything”.

Eric Drouet and his lawyer Kheops Lara, after his release from custody, in Paris on January 3, 2019.
Eric Drouet and his lawyer Kheops Lara, after his release from custody, in Paris on January 3, 2019. (© AFP / Archives / Bertrand GUAY)

Test day

This “act VIII” of the mobilisation will be a test for this unprecedented protest movement that has been shaking the executive for a month and a half but has given slight signs of breathlessness on the street in recent weeks.

In “Act VII” of December 29, 12,000 demonstrators had been identified in France at noon, according to the Interior Ministry, which however did not give a global figure at the end of the day.

The ministry had counted 38,600 on December 22 and especially 282,000 on November 17th, during the founding act of this movement which first targeted the rise in fuel prices before making broader claims on taxation or the right to a citizens’ initiative referendum.

Fragilised by this unprecedented protest, the head of state Emmanuel Macron announced on 10 December a series of measures, including a 100-euro increase in wages at the level of the Smic, and promised in his wishes of December 31 a return to ” republican order. But he failed to extinguish the slingshot.

” Anger will turn into hate if you continue, from your pedestal, you and your fellows, to consider the little people as beggars, toothless, people who are nothing,” and warns the collective of “vests yellow “France angry” in an open letter to the president broadcast Thursday night.

Santon de Provence wearing a yellow vest, at the fair of santonniers, Marseille, January 4, 2019.
Santon de Provence wearing a yellow vest, at the fair of santonniers, Marseille, January 4, 2019. (© AFP / BORIS HORVAT)

Government maintains “determination”

Faced with this determination, the government has hardened the tone and now accuses the Yellow Vests who continue the mobilisation of wanting to overthrow the power.

“(The movement), for those who remain still mobilised, became the fact of agitators who want the insurrection and, basically, overthrow the government,” said Friday Benjamin Griveaux , the spokesman of the government.

In a telegram of 29 December, the Minister of the Interior also called on the prefects to be firm and to continue to evacuate , including by force, the “hundred or so meeting points” that remain on the main roads. La France.

For this weekend, the prefect of the Pyrenees-Orientales has banned any manifestation of “yellow vests” at the toll barriers and the border between France and Spain, “given the risks and disturbances to ‘public order “.

New strategy

To avoid the excesses that have enamelled several mobilisations, 3600 CRS and mobile gendarmes will be deployed Saturday in France to which will be added in particular security companies and police officers of the BAC, AFP learned from concordant sources.

Riot police during a demonstration of "yellow vests", in Bordeaux, December 29, 2018
Riot police during a demonstration of “yellow vests”, in Bordeaux, December 29, 2018. (© AFP / Archives / MEHDI FEDOUACH

To try to escape the police, some “yellow vests” seem to consider a new strategy based on discretion.

“Angry France” has suggested to its supporters to remove their yellow vests Saturday “to stand in the streets (…) as the ordinary citizens they are.”

Since the beginning of the movement, more than 1,500 people have been injured, including 53 seriously, among the demonstrators and nearly 1,100 in the police force. Ten people were also killed, mainly during accidents in the margins of roadblocks.

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