Published On: Fri, Mar 29th, 2019

Macron protest BAN: Yellow vest marches BANNED ahead of WEEKEND protests | World | News

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Local prefects in Avignon, Toulouse and Rouen said marches were being banned ahead of the 20th consecutive weekend of action to prevent further acts of violence and looting. In the southern town of Avignon, yellow vests have been forbidden from gathering between 9am and 12pm, local prefect Bertrand Gaume said. The prefect for the northern town of Rouen, Fabienne Buccio, for her part said that all yellow vest marches had been banned from the centre of town.

A protest ban in the southern town of Toulouse imposed last week has been renewed. 

The announcements follow a government decision to ban yellow vests from Paris’ Champs-Elysées after the famous shopping avenue was reduced to a battlefield by rioters two Saturdays ago, on March 16. 

The Champs-Elysées protest ban was renewed for at least another week by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Wednesday, as President Emmanuel Macron’s government warned that it would react severely against any new outbreak of violence.

Military units from the anti-terrorism Sentinelle patrol force were deployed in Paris for the first time last week to back up riot police.

The soldiers were deployed outside public buildings and other key sites to allow police to focus on crowd control. 

The yellow vest protests, named after the fluorescent jackets all French drivers have to keep in their cars and which have been worn by demonstrators, began in mid-November after public anger against planned fuel tax hikes.

The movement has since snowballed into a working class revolt against the Macron government – despite its decision to scrap the fuel taxes – and has often been marred by violent clashes.

The weekly protests have dented the French economy, lowering its economic growth forecast for 2019 to 1.4 percent from 1.7 percent. They have also cost insurance companies some £170million (€200 million) in damages.

While the number of protesters has dwindled over the past months, the demonstrations have gotten more violent due to the presence of so-called “casseurs,” or breakers, intent on causing as much damage as possible.

Mr Macron warned on Thursday that the once-peaceful movement has been hijacked by thugs.

During a meeting in the eastern town of Nantes, he said: “At the beginning, the yellow vests were people who were struggling to make ends meet… People who had to drive to work and who were struggling because of rising fuel prices.

“And that’s why scores of French people supported them and said ‘we agree’ with the yellow vests.”

“We tried to respond to their anger in December, by implementing emergency measures to help boost buying power.” 

Concessions were offered to protesters as the movement reached its peak at the end of last year, including £8.6 billion (€10billion) designed to raise the incomes of the poorest workers and pensioners. But this has not put an end to the unrest.

But then the movement “entered a second phase,” he said: “People slipped on a yellow vest to break everything.

“These breakers don’t want things to get better, they want to impose their own rules on others. These so-called ‘ultras’ are the yellow vests I don’t like.

“Breaking, attacking police, disrespecting and insulting people … no cause justifies such behaviour.”  

Earlier this year, lawmakers approved a controversial anti-rioting bill banning protesters from hiding their faces during demonstrations, reinforcing the government’s efforts to push back against radical members of the movement. 

By forbidding protesters from concealing their faces, the legislation aims to make it easier to use facial recognition technology to catch rioters. Anyone who masks their face could face a year in prison and a £13,000 (€15,000) fine.

The bill also grants police greater powers to extract potential trouble-makers from demonstrations.

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