French govt urges 'yellow vests' not to protest after Strasbourg attack

French gendarmes walk past flowers and candles laid in the street in tribute to the victims of a deadly shooting in central Strasbourg, on Dec 13, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The French government on Thursday (Dec 13) urged "yellow vest" protesters to refrain from holding another round of demonstrations this weekend, citing the strain on security forces on high alert after the terror attack at a Christmas market in Strasbourg.

"For now we have not banned the demonstrations" which some protesters have called to be held on Saturday (Dec 15), government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television.

But he called on the protesters to be "reasonable" after President Emmanuel Macron offered a range of financial relief on Monday, including a minimum wage boost and a tax cut for low-income pensioners.

"Our security forces have been deployed extensively these past few weeks," Mr Griveaux said, while insisting that "it's not up to us to say if the movement should be called off or not".

In the wake of the Strasbourg attack, "it would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again", he said.

The "yellow vest" protests began on Nov 17 over fuel tax increases but quickly evolved into a widespread revolt over declining living standards as well as Mr Macron's perceived indifference to the problems of ordinary citizens.

Even before Monday's concessions, the government had scrapped a fuel tax hike slated for January, a core demand of the protesters, who mainly live in rural areas and smaller towns and rely heavily on their cars.

Along with road barricades in many parts of the country, protesters have converged on Paris every Saturday since Nov 17, sparking clashes with police and intense vandalism which have shocked the country.

Last Saturday, nearly 90,000 police were mobilised across the country for the protests, with 8,000 officers and a dozen armoured vehicles deployed in the capital where scores of stores, museums and monuments were closed.

But protesters still smashed windows, looted stores and burned dozens of cars in many parts of the city.

While some of the movement's representatives have said they are open to halting the protests to negotiate with the government, others have said its concessions are not enough, and have vowed to protest again in Paris this weekend.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.