Yellow Vest Protesters Clash with Police as Demonstrations Resume In Paris
By Tyler Adams
Global Outlook News
Yellow vest protests resumed in Paris last weekend after a months-long hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak. These were the first anti-government demonstrations since the government lifted lockdown restrictions in May.
Police officers took more than 250 protesters into custody for questioning and deployed tear gas to disperse protesters as the demonstrations violently escalated. Video footage shared by the media and on social media showed cars and garbage dumpsters lit on fire and clashes between protesters and riot police officers.
According to the police prefecture, weapons confiscated during the protest included a penknife, a bow and a hammer. In addition to the arrests, police issued over 90 warning citations.
Some participating protesters wore all black clothes and waved the flag of a notorious anti-fascist movement, suggesting the protests included radical extremists who are part of a movement known as ‘black blocks’ which is often blamed for violence at street marches across France.
Police banned additional planned protests
Yellow vest movement organizers had originally planned to hold four separate protests, but the Paris police prefecture banned two of the demonstrations according to a statement issued Friday, one day before they were set to take place.
One of these included a planned march down the Champs Elysée. Authorities refused to allow the protest for fear of destruction and damages to the famous boulevard.
"We cannot have chaos and destruction on the Champs," said Police chief Didier Lallement to French TV station BFMTV.
As a precaution, the prefecture authorized the closer of stores and businesses on the busy shopping and tourist avenue and further advised business owners to place means of protection in front of their establishments.
The avenue was the site of rioting during the height of the yellow vest protests, and many businesses remained closed and boarded up on Saturday with a heavy police presence to deter any potential incidents. Of the two authorized protests, one proceeded peacefully without incident.
History of the yellow vest protests
The yellow vests protests, or the gilets jaunes, were first held in November 2018 in opposition to plans to increase fuel prices and outrage over the rising cost of living. The protests get their name from the high-visibility yellow jackets French motorists are required to carry in their vehicles.
During initial protests, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in a powerful visual display of resistance that championed the economic rights of workers, the poor and other groups in society.
The French government issued a 10 billion euro ($11.05 billion) aid package for the poor in response to the movement in the first year, a concession made by French President Emmanuel Macron in a move contradicting his claims to stand firm against the mounting pressure of the protests.
Yellow vests and the coronavirus
The return of the protests comes as France struggles with an apparent resurgence in coronavirus cases. The number of confirmed cases hit a daily high on Thursday at nearly 10,000.
Paris is classified as one of France’s high-risk ‘red zones.’ Police authorities requested demonstrators respect and comply with coronavirus measures including the compulsory wearing of face masks in the street.