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  • Yellow vest protesters in Paris.

    Yellow vest protesters in Paris. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 January 2019

The yellow vest movement for social and fiscal justice is recovering from low numbers during the holidays. At least 103 people have been arrested.

Clashes erupted between yellow vest protesters and French police as demonstrators got closer to the National Assembly Saturday, on their 8th mobilization, dubbed Act VIII.

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Dwindling numbers during the holidays generated fears that the movement had waned, but after dinners and family gatherings, the people of France have retaken the streets.

Only in Paris, 103 people have been arrested, according to police reports.

Protesters gathered in several points in Paris to later march to the National Assembly. As people gathered in the Champs-Elysees and the historic stock exchange, demonstrators called for Macron’s resignation and warned him the mobilization is not a revolt, “it’s the revolution.”

“100 billion in tax evasion, no measures,” on protester denounced in a clear reference to the grass-roots movement for fiscal justice.

Saturday’s demonstrations were also inspired by the arrest of social leader Eric Drouet, who was taken by French police Wednesday for organizing an unauthorized protest. Drouet was released Thursday pending a trial.

Kheops Lara, Drouet’s lawyer, said in a statement that his client had been “arbitrarily arrested”, arguing that the gathering he attended Wednesday did not qualify as a demonstration that requires authorization.

Drout had been arrested before after being accused of carrying a wooden club during a protest on Dec. 22.

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On Friday, the French government dismissed yellow vest protesters as agitators whose only goal was to topple it. The popular uprising that began with a rejection to a fuel tax has transformed into a movement for fiscal justice that has demanded President Emmanuel Macron, known to many as the “president of the rich”, to step down.

After President Macron’s first cabinet meeting of the year, during which he insisted law and order must be restored, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told reporters: "The yellow vest movement, for those who continue to protest, has become the thing of agitators who promote insurrection to topple the government."

It’s not the first time the French government dismisses yellow vest protesters. In November, when mobilizations began, Macron called them thugs. However, in mid-December, after weeks of protests, the president was forced to make concessions, including the elimination of the controversial fuel tax, a raise in the minimum wage, and tax cuts for pensioners.   

"We must take the desire of the French for change to its fullest because it is this desire which brought us to power … Maybe we have made too many concessions to conservatism, we'll have to change that," Griveaux said. However, it is not conservatism that has sparked protests but Macron’s anti-working class reforms, including a sweeping labor reform and pension reform.

Since Macron came to power in May 2017 he has seen his popularity slide to a record low as discontent with his policies grew.

According to a poll released Thursday, 55 percent of French people want the yellow vests to continue protesting.


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