Police teargas 'yellow vest' protesters in Paris

"Yellow vest" protesters clash with police officers in Paris on Dec 29, 2018.
"Yellow vest" protesters clash with police officers in Paris on Dec 29, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Police fired tear gas at "yellow vest" demonstrators in Paris on Saturday (Dec 29) but the turnout for round seven of the popular protests that have rocked France appeared low.

Several hundred people wearing the symbolic hi-visibility vests had gathered near the offices of France Televisions and the BFM TV channel in the centre of the capital shouting "Fake news" and calling for the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.

Protesters spilled on to tram lines and lobbed projectiles at police who responded with tear gas grenades and detained several people.

Tear gas was also fired in Nantes, western France, and protests were expected in Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse.

In the southern city of Marseille, police said 900 protesters turned out, amid cries of "Macron out".

The official turnout numbers have plunged with the passing weeks. The government recorded 38,600 demonstrators on December 22 compared to 282,000 for the first major demonstrations on November 17.

But leading figures within the movement that has flourished outside of trade union and political groups, say the low numbers are due to the holiday season and January will bring a resurgence of the street protests.

 
 
 
 

The focus of the protests has morphed from anger over fuel taxes to a broad rebuke of Mr Macron, accused by critics of neglecting the rising costs of living for many in rural and small-town France.

"We want to get our purchasing power back and have a say in the decisions," said Ms Priscillia Ludosky, who launched the yellow vest petition against fuel price hikes.

Government tax concessions to boost disposable income among the lowly-paid "are not enough", Ms Ludosky said in Marseille.

The movement has increasingly targeted Mr Macron and 40 "yellow vests" on Thursday tried to storm the medieval fort of Bregancon that serves as his official summer retreat on the Mediterranean before being turned back by police.

Die-hard yellow vest supporters believe the movement will live on in 2019 and plans are underway for New Year's Eve protests.

Nearly 8,000 people are listed on Facebook as intending to attend, insisting it will be "festive and non-violent".

Paris officials said preparations would continue for a fireworks display and sound and light show on the Champs-Elysee, the epicentre of repeated violent action against the government, with the Arc de Triomphe ransacked on December 1.

Tens of thousands of tourists and locals traditionally ring in the new year on the wide shopping boulevard, which leads to the Arc monument.