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  • A police motorcycle officer pulls a gun during a demonstration of the

    A police motorcycle officer pulls a gun during a demonstration of the "yellow vests" movement on Champs Elysees in Paris | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 December 2018

The government has been actively using the violence of a few dozens of protestors in a bid to discredit the entire movement.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for "order" on Sunday after the sixth weekend of "yellow vest" anti-government protests that saw a violent confrontation between protestors and the police in Paris.

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Speaking during a visit to the Saharan state of Chad where he was visiting French troops serving in a counter-terrorism force, Macron said: "There must be order now, calm and harmony. Our country needs it."

The 41-year-old former bank executive has struggled to tamp down the anger of the working poor in small-town and rural France over falling spending power and policies seen as tilted towards the rich.

Nearly 40,000 people took part in a sixth round of nationwide protests on Saturday, according to the interior ministry — around half the number who demonstrated a week earlier. Many people took to social media complaining about the police cordon impeding them to reach the demonstration.

In Paris, the protests were mainly peaceful, but as evening fell, violence broke out again on the iconic Champs Elysees avenue when policemen started violently evicting peaceful protestors with tear gas and grenades.

In one incident that was widely used by the government to discredit the whole movement, three police officers on motorbikes were forced to make a hasty escape after coming under attack near the Champs Elysees from demonstrators who threw paving stones and other objects at them.

A video of the incident, which was widely shared on social media, showed one officer pulling his gun and pointing it at the advancing protesters. He and his two colleagues — one of whom had his motorbike knocked to the ground — then made their getaway.

The video showed that, seconds before the attack, the police had lobbed stun grenades at a group of protesters, who were some distance away.

Speaking to the BFMTV channel, Macron said those responsible for the violence would face "the most severe" legal punishment.

From there the protests quickly morphed into a full-scale revolt against Macron's policies, his aloof, top-down governing style, and the political class as a whole.

A total of 142 people were detained and 19 taken into police custody in the capital, including one of leaders of the movement, Eric Drouet.

Drouet was released on parole on Sunday and will face trial on June 5 for "carrying a prohibited category D weapon," a judicial source told AFP.

At least ten people have died in incidents linked to the demonstrations, mostly in accidents at roadblocks set up by the protesters.

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