Yellow vests to demonstrate for 23rd straight Saturday

PARIS • The French government is mobilising 60,000 police officers nationwide as this week's fire at Notre-Dame cathedral does not seem to have deterred "yellow vests" from protesting for the 23rd straight Saturday.

Several key members of the movement posted that they intend to demonstrate today, saying that contesting French President Emmanuel Macron's policies is not incompatible with grieving over the damage to the iconic Gothic monument.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has said there are indications that "black bloc" anarchists, who have been blamed for the worst of the violent acts in past weeks, are expected to join them.

"Violent extremists once again plan to gather in certain towns such as Toulouse, Montpellier, Bordeaux and above all Paris," Mr Castaner said at a press conference yesterday in Paris.

"Their objective is clear: to do another March 16" when there was widespread destruction on the Champs-Elysees avenue in the capital, he said.

The Paris police say they will not allow protests today near the Champs-Elysees and Notre-Dame.

Although Monday's fire at Notre-Dame initially united France in its grief, the huge sums of money being pledged for its reconstruction have become a new source of anger.

 
 
 

"Yesterday, a historic building burned and it's very serious, but money has flowed in and this monument will be rebuilt," Mr Nicolle Maxime, a truck driver from Brittany who goes by the online name Fly Rider and has a wide following, said in a video he posted on Tuesday.

"The earth still turns, we have people who can't make it to the end of the month, we have people who sleep on the streets, and that's what our fight is about."

The Notre-Dame fire broke out an hour before Mr Macron was due to address the country on television to outline tax and other measures he was proposing as a result of the "Great Debate", a two-month series of town-hall meetings he organised to let the French vent grievances raised by five months of yellow-vest protests.

That speech was cancelled, and Mr Macron next week is likely to make the announcement, perhaps in a different format.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2019, with the headline 'Yellow vests to demonstrate for 23rd straight Saturday'. Print Edition | Subscribe