French 'yellow vest' weekend protests approach six-month mark

French interior ministry figures put turnout for the 26th consecutive weekend of nationwide marches by the so-called 'yellow vest' anti-government movement, protesting falling living standards for low- and middle-income earners, at just under 19,000 on Saturday, suggesting the numbers are bottoming out after nearly six months of demonstrations. 

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Yellow Vest protests were held across France on Saturday as the movement closes in on six months of recurrent weekend marches, but it failed to rebuild momentum after last weekend’s record-low turnout, reports FRANCE 24.

In Nantes, black-hooded demonstrators on the fringes of a largely peaceful protest hurled bottles and smashed shop windows, while in Lyon tear gas swirled as police tried to funnel protesters away from the central Place Bellecour.

Six months after the grassroot rebellion erupted over the high cost of living and Macron's perceived indifference toward the plight of working class France, the movement is losing momentum.

Saturday's apparently low turnout nationwide will be a relief to Macron, little more than two weeks out from European elections. The far-right, polling neck-and-neck with Macron's party, is billing the vote as a referendum on his first two years in office.

The prolonged unrest has forced the president into costly policy concessions and put the brakes on his reform timetable, including an overhaul of the pension system this year.

With his authority challenged by the "yellow vests", Macron launched his fight back last month, promising after weeks of national debate to cut taxes and apologising for his sometimes sharp tongue.

Even so, in Nantes on Saturday, protesters said Macron's proposals did not go far enough and lacked detail.

"The 'grand debate' was a smoke screen. Today they're smoking us out with tear gas," said one 43-year-old protester who identified himself as Mickaël. "But we won't cave in. Yes we're fewer than at the start, but when the others come back, we'll still be here and we'll still be angry."

Read more of this Reuters report published by FRANCE 24.


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