French government counts 8,300 ‘yellow vests’ in latest protests

French government counts 8,300 'yellow vests' in latest protests
Yellow vest protestors in Metz on March 23rd. Photo: AFP
An estimated 8,300 people had turned out for "yellow vest" anti-government protests across France by 2pm, including 3,100 in Paris, the interior ministry said.

The figures suggest a marked drop from last weekend, when officials counted 14,500 demonstrators by mid-afternoon in France, with 10,000 in Paris, the scene of rioting and looting on the Champs-Elysees.

Hundreds of demonstrators began marching shortly after midday from a square in the south of Paris across the city towards Montmartre in the north, with banners calling for President Emmanuel Macron to “Get Lost!”

Authorities banned demonstrations in a large area in the west of the city, including the Champs-Elysees, the scene of last Saturday's rampage by hundreds of black-clad agitators.

Dozens of police vehicles, including armoured trucks and water cannons, encircled the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the iconic avenue, with officers searching people's bags and patrolling in front of boarded-up storefronts.

“It would have been asking for trouble to go to the Champs, after the repression they've announced,” said Jean-Paul Tonson, a 57-year-old civil servant.

“But we're going to keep showing up, we're not going to back down,” he said.

The interior ministry said 8,300 people had turned out for protests across France as of 2pm, including 3,100 in Paris.

It was a marked declined from the 14,500 counted by mid-afternoon last Saturday, with 10,000 in Paris.

Over 50 people had been detained in the capital, while 29 were given fines — which the government hiked by decree this week to 135 euros from 38 euros — for protesting in the outlawed sectors, the police said.

Protest bans were also in effect in the centres of Toulouse, Bordeaux, Dijon, Rennes and the southern city of Nice, where Chinese President Xi Jinping is to meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron this weekend.

Dozens of people who defied the ban at Nice's Garibaldi square near the port were quickly surrounded by security forces and later evacuated, with six people arrested.

Clashes also broke out in some other cities, including Nantes and Montpellier, though the Paris march was largely peaceful.

READ ALSO: French police out in force to prevent 'yellow vest' violence

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  1. ‘Repression’ Jean-Paul Tonson? It’s called maintaining law and order, you know, protecting the property of innocent people like that which was destroyed by your fellow demonstrators last Saturday and on previous Saturdays. Out of interest, what did you think of the behavior of those louts?

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