Act XV: What to expect from this Saturday’s ‘yellow vest’ protests in France

Act XV: What to expect from this Saturday’s 'yellow vest' protests in France
Rennes in Brittany is also expecting a significant number of protesters on its streets this Saturday. Photo AFP
With the fifteenth weekend of gilets jaunes action about to get underway, we take a look at what France’s struggling social protest movement is planning for this Saturday.

Over the past few weeks France’s ‘yellow vests’ have faced increasing scrutiny from the general public over violence at their rallies, anti-Semitic messages by some of their supporters, and the seemingly convoluted goals of their leaders.

But official government numbers reported that 41,500 gilets jaunes still turned out across the country last Saturday, proving that plenty of protesters are still taking to the streets calling for social change.

This Saturday, a sizeable “yellow vest” protest is planned in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in central France, with initial estimates pointing to anything between 3,000 and 10,000 protesters.

Authorities in the capital of Puy de Dome department have announced they will keep all public buildings and parks closed for the day and remove all self-service bicycles from their docking stations until Monday.

France’s public rail service SNCF has told travellers that “yellow vest” action should not affect Saturday’s train schedule in Clermont-Ferrand, although extra security officers will be deployed just in case.

The northern city of Rennes in Brittany is also expecting a significant number of protesters on its streets.

“There could be around 3,000 demonstrators, it might get a little messy,” a police source is quoted as saying by regional daily Le Mensuel de Rennes.

Police in the town of Epinal in the northeast of France are on their guard after violence broke out last Saturday, with “yellow vest” Facebook groups labelling the town in Voges as the go-to place for gilets jaunes in the region.

The local prefecture has asked its citizens not to leave any rubbish or small vehicles such as bikes or scooters on the streets, as they may be set on fire by protesters. Retailers will also shut up shop if the protests turn violent.

In Bordeaux, Lille, Toulouse, and Strasbourg calls for Act XV demonstrations to be organised are also gaining traction on Facebook.

And last but not least, Paris will also see another gilet jaunes rally take place at the Champs-Elysées at 11am on Saturday, with 5,000 people already confirming their attendance on Facebook groups entitled “A date to change everything” and “Let nothing go”. A further 17,000 people have marked themselves as “interested” in the event. 

According to a French ministry statement, only 5,000 “yellow vests” protested in the whole of Paris last Saturday, with an official figure of 41,500 turning out across France. 

This is well down on the 282,000 peak at the start of the protests however organizers claim the figure was much higher. 

“We were 15,000, that means the movement is increasing,” Jerome Rodrigues, one of the movement's better known figures, told AFP at the Paris march.

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