Turnout low at midday for Act 9 of 'Yellow Vest' protests

Postado Janeiro 12, 2019

This is the fifth weekend such a protest has taken place in Dublin, sparked by similar demonstrations which started in France previous year.

The central French city of Bourges is shuttering shops to brace for possible violence between police and yellow vest protesters, as the nationwide movement seeks a new stage for its weekly demonstrations.

National police chief Eric Morvan told France Inter radio he expected turnout to be on a par with mid-December for the ninth consecutive Saturday of protests, which have repeatedly ended in clashes with police and the destruction of property.

It was unclear if the Paris protests would again focus on the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe, or begin in the La Defense business district west of the city.

Nationwide some 80,000 security forces will be on hand.

Other protests are planned in several French cities Saturday, but many actions aren't officially declared in advance and pop up in unexpected places.

In Nimes, rioters attempted to storm city hall and police deployed tear gas against them.

"Those who think that, a few thousand people, can make us question our institutions, are wrong", Castaner added later Friday.

On Jan. 5, around 50,000 people wearing the movement's trademark high-visibility vests took part in protests nationwide, an increase on the previous week but far below the almost 300,000 that turned out for the inaugural protest in mid-November.

But authorities have vowed to crack down on the violence that has marred the demonstrations, which began over high fuel taxes but ballooned into a wholesale rejection of President Emmanuel Macron and his policies.

Macron has called for a national debate starting next week to hear voters' grievances, hoping to sate demands for more of a say in national law-making and tamp down the protesters' anger.

But the process risks being hobbled by record levels of distrust towards politicians and representatives of the state.

A poll by the Cevipof political sciences institute released Friday showed 77 percent of respondents thought politicians inspired "distrust", "disgust" or "boredom".

At times the crowd yelled "Free Christophe!" in reference to Christophe Dettinger, the former professional boxer arrested last week after being filmed bashing two police officers during the Paris demos.

And it's uncertain if the public consultations will be enough, with many protesters calling for Macron's resignation or an immediate referendum on his presidency.

Protesters are now demanding deeper changes to France's economy and politics but no central leadership or unified set of demands has emerged within the movement.

"It's now here before us, we could have a socialist prime minister", he said.