Paris Police Fire Tear Gas, Arrest Scores at Yellow Vest Protest
(Bloomberg) -- Paris police fired tear gas and arrested scores of protesters as the Yellow Vests began another Saturday of demonstrations with tens of thousands of police mobilized to maintain order.
The devastating fire this week at Notre-Dame Cathedral failed to dampen the 23rd straight Saturday of action, with key members of the movement saying that contesting President Emmanuel Macron’s policies -- the initial motivation for the protests -- won’t distract from grieving over damage to the iconic Gothic monument.
The French government has deployed 60,000 police. By early afternoon, 126 people were arrested, broadcasters CNews and BFM TV reported. Most of the arrests were for carrying banned items such as gas masks and objects that could be used as weapons, BFM said.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned on Friday that “Black Bloc” anarchists, who are blamed for the worst of the violent acts in recent weeks, were expected to join the Yellow Vests. The Paris police banned protests near the Champs Elysees and Notre Dame. Protesters were marching Saturday from the French finance ministry on the banks of the Seine River to Republique square in the city’s center.
Macron plans to hold a press conference on Thursday to outline tax and other measures he’s proposing as a result of the “Great Debate,” a two-month series of town-hall meetings he organized to let the French vent grievances raised by five months of protests. A speech planned for last Monday was canceled because of the cathedral fire.
The lastest polls gauging public support for the Yellow Vests, conducted in late March, showed that about half the French are sympathetic to the cause, well below the roughly 80 percent who expressed such views last year.
The movement began as a protest against rising gasoline taxes and morphed into general unhappiness about the cost of living and Macron’s supposed out-of-touch governing style. The Yellow Vests have no central leadership, with protests organized by various local leaders via social media.
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