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  • French President Emmanuel Macron has denied that riot police are using excessive force against yellow vest protesters.

    French President Emmanuel Macron has denied that riot police are using excessive force against yellow vest protesters. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 9 March 2019

“The yellow vests have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs,” UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said.

Week 17 of the Yellow Vests protests will usher in a "decisive act," by members of the movement, who promise to launch sit-ins, commemorate International Women's Day as well as engage in multiple flash protests.

RELATED: 
Week 16: Yellow Vests Accuse Macron of Manipulating Airwaves

Organizers of the movement have urged women protesters to don yellow, pink, purple and red vests for a special procession, at 11:00 a.m., from the Champs-Élysees to Luxembourg Gardens. In Paris, a sit-in is scheduled to take place at the Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower throughout the weekend. 

A Facebook event has been created to promote the Paris event called "Decisive Act: WE WILL NOT Move!” Demonstrators are being asked to occupy the Champ de Mars from Friday evening through to Monday morning. 

Another major event, "Acte17 La Région Auvergne Rhône Alpes au Puy en Velay," is planned for Puy-en-Velay (Haute-Loire) to bring together Yellow Vests from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region to the Haute-Loire prefecture.

Thousands of other demonstrators, in the city of Bordeaux, who have repeatedly experienced violence at several protests, are also set to participate in the "ACT 17: 20,000 A BORDEAUX!!!" Facebook event, despite previous clashes with law enforcement.

On Wednesday, the United Nations (UN) called for a “full investigation” into the possible use of force by France’s riot police during the weekly protests. 

“The yellow vests have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs,” rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in an annual address to the UN Human Rights Council. 

“We encourage the government to continue dialogue – including follow-up to the national discussions which are currently underway – and urge full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force,” the UN official added. 

In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron has denied that riot police are using excessive force against yellow vest protesters.

“I don’t like the word repression because it doesn’t reflect reality,” Macron said, during a national policy debate in Gréoux-les-Bains, to scold a farmer, Alexia Olagnon, who remarked that the ongoing “repression” of yellow vest protesters by police “cannot be ignored.” Macron then asked Olagnon to “name authoritarian or repressive regimes which organize debates like the one we’re having right now.”

The president’s administration recently established a new law to sanction undeclared protests and prevent the wearing of face-covering balaclavas.  The government also warned that police would not hesitate to use flash grenade riot control guns, on demonstrators, after the weapon was authorized by France’s highest administrative court.

Though the protests came about to reject the austerity policies of Macron, some of the younger members of the movement have used the platform to slam the indifference to climate change.  

One yellow vest leader, Priscillia Ludosky, is calling for protestors to "besiege the Champ de Mars... until we obtain our social, fiscal and climate demands," starting Saturday.

There is also a call for a rally at the Charles de Gaulle airport in northern Paris.

The Interior Ministry claims that there were 39,300 yellow vest protesters demonstrated last Saturday, down slightly from the previous Saturday’s 46,600 participants.

The Yellow Vests have already begun planning Act 18, for the March 16 demonstrations, which will bear the title "The Ultimatum."

The demonstrations – named after the fluorescent safety jackets all French motorists are required to carry in their cars – started in mid-November after Macron announced planned fuel tax hikes.

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