French police break up yellow-vest protest with tear gas

A protester wearing a yellow vest walks among tear gas as protesters clash with French riot police in Nantes, France, Sept 14, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOULOUSE, France (AFP) - French police repeatedly used tear gas and water cannons to break up a protest on Saturday (Sept 28) by nearly a 1,000 yellow vest demonstrators in the south-west city of Toulouse.

There were also clashes in the southern city of Montpellier where around 300 protesters faced off with police.

Police there said four officers were slightly injured and nine demonstrators arrested for offences including throwing projectiles.

A police statement said officers made five arrests after being targeted by missiles thrown by some of the protesters.

A group that observes police conduct at yellow vest protests said officers had attacked five of their number during the demonstration, injuring one of them.

The Observatory of Police Practice (OPP) posted images and video on Twitter to support their account and posted an open letter to the authorities protesting the incident.

The police headquarters in Toulouse was not available to comment on the allegations on Saturday evening.

Earlier this month, a member of the OPP filed a complaint alleging that he had been injured during a police charge at a yellow vest protest.

The march in Toulouse, which holds regular yellow vests protests on Saturday, was led by demonstrators brandishing a giant banner that read: "Fed up of surviving. We want to live."

As staff at a McDonalds outlet closed up the premises, one of the parasols outside went up in flames.

Even after the use of tear gas and water cannons, demonstrators continued to gather in the city streets.

In the capital Paris, some yellow vests joined a climate protest march.

September's protests have revived the yellow vest movement, though not to the levels seen late last year and in the first half of 2019.

Saturday's protests came two days after the French government unveiled a draft 2020 budget with more than €9 billion (S$13 billion) in tax cuts for households.

It includes €5 billion in tax cuts for some 12 million households already promised by President Emmanuel Macron, the result of a "great national debate" he held to try to address the ongoing protests.

Macron swept to the presidency in 2017 with a pledge to get the country back on a solid financial footing. But he was caught short by the "yellow vest" movement which accused the former investment banker of ignoring the day-to-day struggles of many French.

Demonstrations have been banned on the Champs-Elysees after protesters clashed with police on the famous Paris avenue on December 8 last year, in the early days of the yellow vest protests.

On that weekend, police detained 900 people: the most since the anti-government protests began.

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