The return of the Yellow Vests provides a challenge to France’s new government
After pausing for the coronavirus lockdown and summer holidays, the Yellow Vests are bringing their anger back to the streets for a series of protests in Paris and a number of other French cities on Saturday.
In France, the schools are back and so too are the Yellow Vest protests. The first Yellow Vest protests since March in Paris and in several large provincial cities is a test for the government under its new prime minister, Jean Castex.
There is the fear of another outbreak of violence on the Champs-Elysées where all gatherings have been banned. Shopfronts have been boarded over and barricades erected even though no protests are officially allowed.
Second Covid wave or not, the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) plan a mass return to French streets and roundabouts today. By 11am there had been 68 pre-demo arrests in Paris, mostly for carrying weapons or missiles. Marches are also planned in provincial cities. 1/7— John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) September 12, 2020
2,300 people indicated that they still intended to take part in the rally on the Champs-Elysées, and 7,000 showed interest, according to the event's Facebook page.
According to police sources, 4,000 to 5,000 demonstrators are expected in Paris, including potentially violent ‘black bloc’ protesters.
The French capital of #Paris awaits today one of the biggest turnouts of the #GiletsJaunes movement.— ISCResearch (@ISCResearch) September 12, 2020
Some preparations already underway for fear of the Black block which recently spreads destruction during nationwide protests. pic.twitter.com/rENLxac5H2
Two demonstrations have been authorised to take place in Paris at a distance from the Champs-Elysees by the Paris Police Prefecture (PPP): one from the Place de la Bourse, in the centre of the capital; the other from the Place Wagram, in the west.
"There can be no destruction and chaos on the Champs-Elysées," police prefect Didier Lallemant said on BFMTV, calling for "calm" as the activity of the shops on the avenue has been severely disrupted during previous editions of these demonstrations, which were marred by violence and destruction.
According to the PPP, there had been 200 arrests in Paris by 3pm on Saturday.
While other rallies are also planned in the provinces, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, presented on Friday an outline of the government's new doctrine for maintaining order, which should make it possible to guarantee both security and the right to demonstrate. From this Saturday, the forces of law and order will use a new defensive grenade known as GMD. It is said to be less dangerous than the previous one used and its use will be supervised. This weapon’s primary purpose is to break up groups of people.
The French government's stick is outlined here. Government forces may use a sub-lethal projectile firing gun (LBD) subject to the consent of a supervisor. They may also use a new hand grenade (GMD) to disperse people. So that's good! NOT! https://t.co/2FhfoAgc3p— S.C. (@sallycopper) September 11, 2020
The Yellow Vests, named after the high-visibility jackets they wear, protested every Saturday for 70 weeks until the lockdown. The movement emerged late in 2018, triggered by fuel tax rises, and swelled into a revolt against Macron’s government.
Their last major protest was on March 14, 2020, on the eve of local elections. This was just three days before the country went into lockdown for Covid-19. They were in defiance of a ban from President Macron over mass gatherings.
It is almost two years since the first Yellow Vest protest on November 17, 2018. Their numbers at first soared and then ebbed. The question now is whether they will rise again like a Phoenix from the ashes as social dissension grows over Covid restrictions.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
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