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Marches and road blocks: How France’s ‘yellow vests’ plan to mark their anniversary

Rolling roadblocks, marches and a dance - this weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the 'yellow vest' protests that gripped France and if organisers have their way it will be a lively weekend.

Marches and road blocks: How France's 'yellow vests' plan to mark their anniversary
The 'yellow vest' movement will mark one year of protests this weekend. Photo: AFP

Multiple events are being organised, but 'yellow vest' numbers have been dwindling dramatically in recent months. From 282,000 people out on the streets at the movement's peak last winter, the more recent weekly demonstrations have been attracting just a couple of hundred.

Organisers are hoping that the anniversary this weekend will kick-start the movement back into life, but exactly how many people will turn up to the many advertised demonstrations is hard to predict.

There are around 140 protest events advertised on social media, with varying levels of interest – here are some of the main ones.

Possible action on the Champs-Elysées – the famous Paris avenue has been banned to protesters since a group of 'yellow vests' ran amok in March, smashing shop windows and setting fire to restaurants. Despite this, the leader of the 'yellow vest citizens' group Thierry Paul Valette says he has applied for permission from the Interior Ministry to march on the Champs-Elysées. The Paris police department has refused permission, so any protest in this area would be unauthorised.

Thierry Paul Valette also says his group will be staging an Opération Escargot – a rolling roadblock or go-slow operation – on the Arc de Triomphe roundabout at the top of the Champs-Elysées.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS Will Macron really 'tremble' at the yellow vest anniversary? I doubt it

Trouble flared on the Champs-Elysées in March. Photo: AFP

March in the 18th arrondissement of Paris – several proposed route marches have been refused by the police and a large 'no demonstration' zone remains in place. Currently the only authorised demonstration moves through the 18th arrondissement and ends at Bastille.

Blocking the Paris ringroad – Eric Drouet, one of the movement's main leaders, has called for a blockade of the périphérique that circles Paris starting at 10am on Saturday.

Several Paris shops are also to be targeted in what organisers insist will be a peaceful occupation of “temples of consumption” in the capital. Some of the stores named on Facebook include the Ikea in the city centre, Carrefour at Porte d'Auteuil, Nike  at Forum des Halles, H&M  at Rue La Fayette and an Apple store whose location has not been revealed.

In the greater Paris Île de France region marches are planned in Saint-Denis and Saint-Ouen while in Vitry-sur-Seine there is a BBQ for those who do not want to go into Paris.

A protest at the péage at Virsac in November 2018. Photo: AFP

In Bordeaux there is a call to block the motorway toll booth at Virsac – which has been the frequent target of protests since the start of the 'yellow vest' movement – and a demonstration in the city centre starting from Place de la Bourse.

In Nantes a roundabout blockade is called from 4am on Friday, followed by a march on Saturday and then a dance.

In Lyon a demonstration is planned starting from Place Bellecour.

In Montpellier organisers are calling for multiple roundabouts to be blockaded from 8am on Saturday, before a demonstration in the city centre.

Many organisers of regional groups are also calling on people who can travel to join in demonstrations in Paris.


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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?