Act XIII: What to expect from the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ in France this Saturday

The 'yellow vests' are gearing up for a thirteenth day of national anti-government protests this weekend, with a big march planned in Paris on Saturday and events scheduled from Friday evening right through to Sunday in Montpellier.

Act XIII: What to expect from the 'Gilets Jaunes' in France this Saturday
Protesters at a yellow vest demo in Montpellier on 2 February 2019. Photo: AFP

President Emmanuel Macron and his government, who have launched a “great national debate” to try and placate the protestors, will be keeping a close eye on the numbers at the latest protests to see if the movement is waning or remains buoyant.

Demos are to be held across the country on Saturday, but the biggest is set for Paris, where last week around 14,000 turned out for a yellow vest protest, followed by more than 20,000 more who took to the streets there on Tuesday in a joint march by union members and yellow vests.

This weekend protestors plan to march from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysées before crossing the Seine, passing in front of the National Assembly, and finishing with a rally at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Montpellier looks set to be a hive of activity this weekend, with a “festive stroll” scheduled for Friday evening that will wind through the southern city’s streets in what organisers hope will be “in joy and good humour.”

The major event of the weekend there will be the protest on Saturday whose aim organisers said will be to denounce the new anti-rioting law which aims to crack down on the sort of street violence that has marred yellow vest protests since November.

A “march for dignity” is due to be held on Sunday for disabled people, carers, and health workers in Montpellier.

Yellow vests in Bordeaux have been called on to gather in an as yet to be announced place at 1 pm on Saturday, and their march will be led by a cortege of motorbikes.

The demo in Marseille will kick off as usual at the Vieux-Port in the early afternoon, while another protest group in the south has called on people in the region to gather at the Italian border to “fight the repression of the French state.”

Smaller demos are expected to take place in other towns and cities across the country.

The yellow vest protests are the longest running and most violent in recent French history.

They began in November against rising fuel taxes, but quickly spiralled into a wider revolt over accusations that Macron, a former banker, is out of touch with ordinary people in small-town and rural France.


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What happened to the rioters who trashed the Arc de Triomphe during yellow vest violence?

A court in France has finally handed out sentences to some of those involved in the vandalism and theft at the Arc de Triomphe in December 2018 - when 'yellow vest' violence in Paris shocked the world.

What happened to the rioters who trashed the Arc de Triomphe during yellow vest violence?
'Yellow vest' protesters clash with police by the Arc de Triomphe on December 1st 2018 in Paris. Photo: Abdulmonam EASSA / AFP

The French court on Thursday sentenced eight people to suspended jail terms and community service for taking part in one of the most violent episodes of the anti-government ‘yellow vest’ protests that rocked France two years ago.

A total of nine stood trial this week for the incident, but one of them, a former soldier, was cleared for lack of evidence, presiding judge Sonia Lumbroso said at the verdict.

The court ruled the suspects were neither the instigators nor the main culprits of the vandalism and looting around the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, when scenes of destruction and fierce clashes with police made global headlines.

Most of them had no criminal records.

They were sentenced to 70 hours of community service for entering the monument, but those also found guilty of stealing items such as postcards, Arc de Triomphe models or miniature Eiffel Towers from the gift shop, were fined €100 for theft.

A ‘yellow vest’ protester arrives at the courthouse in Paris to attend the trial of ten people on charge of destruction and theft around the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris. Photo: Thomas COEX / AFP

One of the group, a man who was caught on camera trying to break down a door with a fire extinguisher, was handed the most severe sentence, a suspended prison term of eight months.

Dozens of cars were set on fire and businesses trashed all along the celebrated Champs-Elysées avenue on December 1st, 2018, the third Saturday of mass demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.

READ ALSO: Macron risks losing support from left against Le Pen in French presidential election

He was accused of ignoring the plight of struggling French families and after months of protests he abandoned a planned fuel tax hike and raised spending on the lowest earners.

The protesters had already skirmished with security forces at earlier rallies, but police were unprepared for the rioting that engulfed the capital just a few weeks before Christmas.

Despite firing volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets, the officers were forced to abandon their positions around the Arc de Triomphe, which honours France’s war dead.

Protesters snuffed out the eternal flame over the tomb of an unknown World War I soldier and spray-painted the stone walls with graffiti including “the yellow vests will triumph”.

Others forced their way inside the arch, ransacking the gift shop and damaging scores of artworks, causing damage that cost €1.2 million to repair.

READ ALSO: Is France’s ‘yellow vest’ movement really on its way back?