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Act XII: What to expect from the 'Gilets Jaunes' in France this Saturday

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Act XII: What to expect from the 'Gilets Jaunes' in France this Saturday
Jerome Rodrigues, a leader of the yellow vest movement, was injured in the eye during clashes between protesters and riot police on the sidelines of an anti-government demo in Paris. Photo: AFP
13:54 CET+01:00
In France, the 'yellow vests' are gearing up for a twelfth day of national anti-government protests this weekend, with the southern town of Valence battening down the hatches and a march in Paris to be led by protestors injured by riot police in previous demos.

It's nearly the weekend which means another day of protests for the gilets jaunes, with two locations pinpointed for this Saturday's events, dubbed ACT 12 of the "yellow vest" movement.

Paris and Valence, the capital of the southern Drome department, are the main meeting points for the weekend's demonstrations.

And while Paris has by now a lot of experience in dealing with often unruly yellow vests protesters, the local authorities in Valence are taking no chances and have ordered a “shutdown” for the town of around 62,000 people.

Valence

Up to 10,000 people are expected to attend the protest in Valence, according to local officials, with around 10 percent of them seen as “casseurs”, or thugs who join demonstrations with the intention of fighting police or damaging or looting local stores.

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 “We are going to put Valence on shutdown for the whole day, from 7 am to 9 pm and do everything that we can to stop things getting out of control,” the town's mayor Nicolas Daragon told France Info radio.

Only residents will be allowed to enter the town centre, markets, museums, cinemas and car parks will be closed, and shop owners have been advised to board up their shopfronts, while a planned car rally has been moved to another part of the town to avoid disruption.

Dozens of municipal employees have been busy this week removing hundreds of rubbish bins, metal street posts, and the metal grills at the foot of trees so that they cannot be used as ammunition against riot police.

Streets with paving stones have been tarmacked over to prevent their used by potential rioters among the protesters, whose revolt began last November as a grassroots protest against fuel taxes and has since morphed into a broader revolt against inequality and President Emmanuel Macron's presidency.

“Anyone wanting to use urban furniture as projectiles will find nothing available to them,” said the mayor of Valence.

Paris

The march planned for Saturday in Paris is due to be led by some of the hundreds of protesters who have been injured by riot police over the course of the past two months of nationwide yellow vest protests.

“It is a march in their honour, you must come disguised as an injured person (with) a bandage, plasters, fake blood,” Eric Drouet, a figurehead of the yellow vest movement, said in a video message.

More than 2,000 people had by Friday afternoon said they were definitely going to the march and another 10,000 said they were “interested” on a Facebook page announcing the event that is due to start at midday in the Daumesnil area in the east of the capital.

The official aim of the march is to obtain justice for the injured, pay homage to victims (of alleged police violence), and to campaign against the use by police of high-velocity rubber bullets and stun grenades.

The French police have drawn fire over their repeated use of these weapons to restore order during the yellow vest protests, which have repeatedly ended in rioting.

A human rights group and a major trade union went to France's top administrative court this week seeking a ban on riot police using rubber bullets, but the court on Friday rejected their suit.

French lawmakers have meanwhile backed a controversial bill which proposes to ban individuals identified as habitual hooligans from taking part in demonstrations.

The bill has been opposed by left-wing parties who see it as a threat to civil liberties.

The numbers turning out for the weekly yellow vest protests have dipped in recent weeks after Macron announced a series of measures to assist pensioners and the working poor, and launched two months of countrywide debates to allow people to suggest what reforms they favour.

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