Violence Backlash, Tighter Secirity Bring Down Yellow Vest Clashes in France
There were no incidents involving the military troops redeployed by Macron from Operation Sentinel to relieve the police.
The 19th weekly rallies of the Yellow Vest movement in France on Saturday saw substantially less violence partly thanks to tightened security and partly thanks to self-moderation because of the public outrage caused by last week’s excesses.
Last week’s devastation in downtown Paris by black bloc anarchists mixed with the Yellow Vests led French President Emmanuel Macron to take the highly criticized decision to involve the military in the security measures.
This Saturday, Paris saw a mostly peaceful march through Paris to the Sacré Coeur basilica in Montmartre, with sporadic clashes between more radical elements and the French riot police mostly occurring after the March, reports France24.
France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner estimated that 40,500 people took part in Saturday’s Yellow Vest protests across the country, up from 32,300 a week ago.
However, only about 5,000 are estimated to have rallied in Paris, down from about 10,000 last Saturday.
A total of 233 people were arrested throughout France during this week’s Yellow Vest demonstrations, some of which were detained before they could arrive to the rally in Paris because of carrying potential weapons such as baseball bats, slingshots, and others.
The emblematic Paris avenue Champs-Élysées Avenue, which saw some 100 stores and other venues vandalized last Saturday, was shut off for the demonstrations by the French authorities.
Downtown locations in a number of other French cities such as Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Nice, and Rouen were also off limits for the protesters.
After last week’s outbursts of violence, public support for the cause of the Yellow Vests dropped, which is believed to have contributed towards making Saturday’s rallies throughout France more moderate.
“Protesters were clever in that they ensured it was more peaceful this week after what the government said, in terms of police and army deployment,” Alexis Poulin, co-founder of Le Monde Moderne (The Modern World) website, commented, as cited by France24.
“Furthermore, the anarchists (who were at the heart of the violence last week) stayed away,” he added.
After the peaceful march to the Sacré-Coeur Cathedral overlooking the city of Paris from the historic Montmartre neighborhood, there still were clashes with by black bloc protesters and the riot police.
The masked anarchists set trash cans on fire and hurled projectiles at the officers en route to République Plaza in eastern Paris, with the riot police responding with tear gas.
Paris’s new police chief, Didier Lallement, appointed earlier this week, said the police had established specific units capable of responding faster to violence.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed Paris on Saturday, and two drones were used to keep track of the demonstrations.
Meanwhile, military servicemen from the anti-terrorist Operation Sentinel (in place since January 2015) were deployed to guard sensitive cities freeing up the police to concentrate on the Yellow Vest rally.
The Yellow Vest movement began in France in November 2018 as a protest against planned hikes of fuel taxes.
However, it quickly expanded to a wider range of economic grievances as well as aversion towards President Emmanuel Macron perceived as part of the financial elite.
On Saturday, there were also clashes in the southern French cities of Montpelier and Nice, where security measures were especially tight as Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to stay there overnight on Sunday.
(Banner image: Video grab from France24)