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  • 'Yellow Vest' protesters stage their 19th round of protests in Nice, France | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 March 2019

Now in its 19th week, the movement has morphed into a broader backlash against Macron's government, often marred by violent clashes and looting.

French "yellow vest" demonstrators began their 19th consecutive weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron's government Saturday as military units were deployed to assist police.

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Demonstrators began marching in the capital Saturday along a new route taking them from Denfert Rochereau in southern Paris with the aim of finishing by Barbes, near the Sacre Coeur church in northern Paris.

The Minister of Defense Florence Parly, said that "the distribution of tasks between the military and police is very clear (...) it is about allowing the police to do what only they can: the maintenance of public order."

Police and demonstrators clashed sporadically in Paris and other French cities Saturday as "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron's government took place.

The demonstration in the capital was largely peaceful for most of the day, but later in the afternoon police fired tear gas on protesters near Boulevard de Strasbourg, close to the capital's Gare du Nord and Gare de L'Est railway stations.

Skirmishes also erupted in cities including Lille in northern France, and Toulouse and Montpellier in the south, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

Named after the high-visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the demonstrations began in November after public anger against fuel tax rises.

The movement has morphed into a broader backlash against Macron's government, despite it scrapping the fuel taxes, and it has often been marred by violent clashes and looting.

Protesters were banned from gathering on the Champs Elysees in Paris after shops and businesses on the avenue were looted and wrecked last weekend, leading the government to call in "Operation Sentinelle" army units for this weekend.

"Operation Sentinelle" is a French military operation consisting of 10,000 soldiers, and 4,700 police deployed with the intent of protecting sensitive areas from terrorism. It has been in effect since the 2015 Île-de-France attacks.

After another flare-up of violence in Saturday's yellow vest protest, which left the landmark Paris avenue looking like a battleground, calls for heads to roll have grown in France, despite its traditional tolerance for street protests. Rioters set fire to a bank and ransacked stores.

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