‘Yellow vest’ protests restart on first weekend France loosens its lockdown

'Yellow vest' protests restart on first weekend France loosens its lockdown
In Toulouse shopkeepers staged a counter-protest. Photo: AFP
With a slow and cautious lifting of the lockdown France is far from back to normal, but one feature of pre-lockdown life has re-emerged - Saturday 'yellow vest' protests.

Before France went into lockdown on March 17th the country had seen 18 months of weekly protests – albeit increasingly small and fragmented ones – from the 'yellow vest' movement.

Their traditional protest time was Saturday afternoon and on the first weekend since the lockdown rules were relaxed cities across France saw the resurgence of 'yellow vest' gatherings.

There was a heavy police presence in Montpellier and one protester was injured. Photo: AFP

Paris, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Lyon, Nantes, Strasbourg, Marseille and Toulouse were among the cities that saw demonstrations.

 

Although France has relaxed some rules as it moves into 'phase 1' of lifting lockdown, gatherings of more than 10 people in public places are still banned.

Police broke up gatherings of around 50 protesters in Bordeaux and Paris and groups of 300 in Lyon and 350 in Montpellier. A female protester was injured in Montpellier.

In Toulouse, shopkeepers held a counter protest, accusing 'yellow vests' of endangering public health and damaging the first weekend of trade for many businesses in two months.

 

Philippe Léon, from the town trader's organisation, said: “It is irresponsible for 'yellow vests' to demonstrate with the risk of contamination and irresponsible to block shops, which are on life support.”

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner added: “At a time when we need to support economic recovery and a form of freedom for our fellow citizens, those who want to hinder trade must understand that this is not necessarily the time to express themselves in this way.”

In France gatherings of 10 people or less in public spaces are allowed, although there is no limit to social gatherings in residential areas.

The government says that mass gatherings such as sports matches and concerts – and demonstrations – will probably not be allowed until September, although France's lockdown lifting strategy is gradual and depends heavily on the health situation.

READ ALSO What are the rules in socialising in France as lockdown lifts?


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