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  • Protesters wearing yellow vests attend a demonstration, Paris, France, March 30, 2019.

    Protesters wearing yellow vests attend a demonstration, Paris, France, March 30, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 March 2019

Thousands of demonstrators marched in cities around France on Saturday for the 20th weekend of "yellow vest" protests as Macron government implement repressive measures.  

The protests, named after the high-visibility safety jackets worn by demonstrators, began in November as an expression of public anger against fuel tax increases.

Since the beginning of the movement, the government took various repressive measures to contain the protests. The French Senate has recently voted in favor of a controversial "anti-riot" bill which gives the possibility to the Prefect to prohibit a person from participating in a demonstration and in this way reinforced the tendency to arbitrary.

After serial degradations on the Champs-Elysées on March 16, President of France Emmanuel Macron chose to deployed military units to assist the police and help maintain security all over France. The authorities have banned demonstrations in certain areas including the Champs Elysees, the surroundings of the National Assembly and the center of the city of Bordeaux. 

According to the prime minister, Édouard  Philippe, 1,796 people were sentenced since the beginning of the movement, to which were added 1,422 people still awaiting trial.

A lot of demonstrators were injured since Nov. 2018. The count highlighted 38 wounds to upper limbs including 5 lost hands, 52 wounds to lower limbs, 3 wounds to the genitals and 189 head wounds including 20 people who have lost an eye.

Participation was down to about 33,400 demonstrators nationwide on Saturday, according to government estimates, compared with 40,500 at the same time a week earlier. In mid-November, nearly 300,000 had demonstrated in French cities.

In Feb. 2019, the European Council reminded the French authorities that "as persons exercising public authority, law enforcement officers have particular responsibilities, and their main task is to protect citizens and their human rights." He added that "the number and seriousness of injuries inflicted on demonstrators raise questions about the compatibility of the methods used in operations aimed at maintaining public order with due regard for these rights."

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