What to expect at this weekend’s ‘yellow vest’ protests across France

After the chaos of two weeks ago and the relative calm of last week, "yellow vest" protesters will once again be taking to the streets of France on Saturday. Here's what you need to know about the latest round of protests.

What to expect at this weekend's 'yellow vest' protests across France
"Yellow Vest" protests are expected across France on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Are the “yellow vest” protests continuing this weekend?

Yes, this weekend marks 'Act XX' in the long-running protest, which has periodically flared up into violence. Although the numbers of people at recent protests has shrunk dramatically from the estimated 284,000 seen when protests began in November, the movement is still going and marches and protests are expected on Saturday around the country.

So what's happening this weekend?

A number of protests have been announced on Facebook, in cities including Paris, Toulouse and Rouen. There are also marches and demonstrations planned in a number of smaller centres including Montpellier, Limoges, Dieppe, Quimper and Epinal.

On Facebook a 'national appeal' has been launched to gather in the southern town of Avignon. Organisers describe it as “a national gathering in Avignon on March 30 for more fiscal justice, social, more democracy and a real change for the environment without taxing us for that!”

Local government officials have reacted by announcing the temporary closure of the railway station and banning large gatherings. The town's historic Papal Palace, where the protesters are invited to meet, is to be given extra protection.

READ ALSO: The burning of the Champs-Elysées does not mark a new beginning, more like a last hurrah'

Rioters looted and burned stores on the Champs-Elysées in Paris on March 16. Photo: AFP

What's happening in Paris?

After violent clashes, looting and burning on the Champs-Elysées on March 16, police kept a very tight control on demonstrations in Paris last weekend, even deploying the army to help guard public buildings. The result was that although demonstrations went ahead, there was very little trouble and it was away from the Champs-Elysées.

This week “yellow vest” organisers applied to be allowed to demonstrate on the Champs-Elysées again, but permission for that has not been granted and the famous avenue will remain off limits to marchers on Saturday.

Instead, “yellow vests” are inviting people to gather in the Place de la Bastille. 

Are there other bans in place?

Yes, several places have been declared off-limits to protesters. In Toulouse the Place du Capitole is off limits to protests, while in Rouen protests in the city centre are banned, as they were last week.

In Bordeaux large parts of the city centre have been placed off limits to protesters after the mayor said he had information that “there will be hundreds of hooligans and people who are spoiling for a fight”.

Mayor Nicolas Florian asked people to remain in their homes on Saturday and told shop owners to shutter their stores.

Bordeaux has seen violence at several previous “yellow vest” protests. Photo: AFP

Are there any other places I should avoid?

It's difficult to predict exactly what will happen this weekend. Certainly last weekend was noticeably calmer than previous weeks, and the number of demonstrators across the whole country fell to an estimated 40,000. But how much of that was due to the huge security presence – particularly in Paris – is difficult to say.

In Paris 10 Metro stations, mostly around the Champs-Elysées area, will be closed from 8am. They are;  Tuileries, George V, Charles de Gaulle Etoile,Concorde, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Champs Elysées Clemenceau,  Invalides, Miromesnil, Assemblée Nationale and Varenne.

Extra closures may well be announced on Saturday morning, you can check the RATP transport site here.






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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?