French protests continue for fifth consecutive week as disruption spreads

Sunday, 16 Dec, 2018

DW's Helena Humphrey, reporting from Paris on Saturday, described a significant police presence, and that even news crews were having their baggage checked. It soon morphed into an expression of rage about the high cost of living in France and a sense that President Emmanuel Macron's government is detached from the everyday struggles of workers.

But numerous "yellow vest" figureheads, so called because of the florescent high visibility vests they wear, have called for a fifth round of protests on Saturday, sparking fears of more clashes. The Associated Press quoted security officials and retailers who said Monday that industrial safety equipment dealers had been ordered not to sell yellow vests to individuals buying in person and only to allow wholesale purchases by verified companies, and even then only after securing police permission.

People across France have been donning high-visibility yellow vests for more than a month to express a range of grievances and demands.

Riot police fired small amounts of tear gas to disperse groups of protesters who headed down the side streets off the French capital's famed Champs-Élysées boulevard, some with traffic still flowing.

In a Cairo downtown area, six retailers has said that they are no longer selling any yellow vest to the buyers.

Michel Delpuech told RTL radio on Friday security services intend to deploy the same numbers and strength as last weekend, with about 8,000 officers and 14 armored vehicles again in Paris.

As well cancelling fuel tax increases that were due to kick in next month, Macron said he would increase the minimum wage by 100 euros a month from January and reduce taxes for poorer pensioners, among other measures.

On Friday, President Macron called for a return to calm in France after almost a month of protests against his government's policies.

"Protesting is a right".

Around 90,000 security forces were mobilised last Saturday across France and 2,000 people were detained, around half of them in Paris. "So let's know how to exercise it", the French government tweeted, showing a 34-second video that began with images of historic French protests and recent footage of "yellow vest" protesters rallying peacefully before turning to violence.

On Tuesday, the French government said those new fiscal measures as well as the cost of damages and loss of sales surrounding the massive protests will cost the country around $11 billion. Protesting is not smashing our businesses.

A public prosecutor in Alexandria ordered lawyer Mohammed Ramadan to 15 days in jail after he was photographed wearing a yellow vest in solidarity with protesters in France who have donned the garment during anti-government protests, according to activist Mahienour El Masry.

The Yellow Vests protests have already battered the French economy, crushing growth at a time when Macron was in need of a boost to help deliver his reform agenda.

France has also been rocked this week by a terror attack on a famed Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg, which left four people dead.

On Friday, President Emmanuel Macron called for calm during the demonstrations.

The protests have taken a toll on the economy, with output in the last quarter of the year set to be half initial projections, while Macron's concessions are likely to push the budget deficit above an European Union agreed limit.