French stars back 'yellow vests' as protesters march again

VIDEO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Film stars Juliette Binoche and Emmanuelle Beart joined hundreds of people from the arts world in backing France's "yellow vests" movement on Saturday (May 4), as the latest anti-government marches got under way.

Binoche and Beart joined 1,400 signatories to an open letter published in the left-leaning daily Liberation.

Entitled "Yellow Vests: we are not fooled!", it denounced what it said were attempts to discredit the movement and backed the demands of the protesters.

These included calls for greater social and fiscal justice, and radical measures to tackle what they called an ecological emergency.

The open letter also condemned what it said were the increasingly repressive measures taken against the movement, noting that international organisations such as United Nations and the European Union had already expressed their concern.

Binoche and Beart were among the most prominent signatories, which also included directors, scriptwriters and composers. Binoche won an Oscar for her role in The English Patient, while Beart is perhaps best known internationally for her role in the first Mission: Impossible film.

Turnout for Saturday's marches appeared to be down, in the wake of the May Day rallies when yellow vest activists joined the traditional trade union march.

An early count from the interior ministry, regularly dismissed as inaccurate by the yellow vest movement, put the turnout at 3,600 across France, including a thousand in the capital.

In the south-west city of Bordeaux, where support for the movement has been strong, 61-year-old teaching assistant Jose acknowledged that the movement was running out of steam a little.

"That's 25 weeks that we have put our life on hold for a bit to at least get back a minimum of dignity," he said.

POLICE VIOLENCE PROBE

At Charles de Gaulle airport, meanwhile, around 20 yellow vest protesters handed out leaflets objecting to government plans to privatise Aeroports de Paris (ADP), which runs the capital's three airports.

Saturday's protests come just days after Wednesday's May Day protests, and the fallout over the violence was still being discussed.

The IGPN, which investigates allegations of police misconduct, is looking at three incidents caught on video that appear to show police violence against May Day protesters.

In one, an officer appears to push his truncheon inside the trousers of an arrested man. Another shows a helmeted officer hitting a protester, while a third shows another officer hurling a paving stone.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Friday that if anyone was at fault they would be punished.

But he is under pressure himself after having to acknowledge that he had been wrong to call an incident at the Paris Pitie-Salpetriere hospital an "attack".

Video footage and accounts from hospital staff and demonstrators suggested that protesters had been fleeing riot police.

In the northwestern city of Metz, yellow vest protesters and ecologists joined forces in a march Saturday ahead of a meeting there of Group of 7 environment ministers on Sunday and Monday.

Police said 3,000 people turned out for the march, while the organisers - an alliance of around 40 environmental and grass-roots groups - put the figure at between 4,500 and 5,000.