As many as 50,000 people showed up this Saturday to participate in the eighth consecutive weekend of Yellow Vest protests in France – that’s more than double the turnout of the initial demonstration.
Protestors in Paris clashed with police, flipped cars, set fire to motorbikes, and used a forklift to smash into a government building.
“Once again, extreme violence has attacked the Republic,” lamented French President Emmanuel Macron. “Those who commit these acts have forgotten what lies at the heart of our civic pact. Justice will be done. Everyone must now pull together and help pave the way for debate and dialogue.”
Rumor has it Macron is planning to remove Paris police chief Michel Delpuech over his failure to quell the violence. Later this month, his administration will hold a series of consultations with the public to begin negotiations and reduce violence.
At least 10 people have been killed during the protests, which began in November over a gas tax increase intended to reduce CO2emissions. Over the past two months, the protests have evolved into a full-blown revolt against Macron and his plans for a free-market overhaul.
In addition to Macron’s resignation, protestors want to see:
- Increased purchasing power for the middle class
- The reimposition of the wealth tax
- Lower fuel prices
“The strength of the movement is that it can bring everyone together in a way that’s almost naive and apolitical,” explains Paris local Patrick Coudeyrette. “It’s a true representation of the people.”
Despite the high turnout last weekend, polls suggest that overall support for the movement has dropped to 55% (down from as high as 70%).
On Sunday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called on the Yellow Vests to give up the violence in the interest of the economy. “I would like all of those who believe in Democracy, in the sovereign representation of the French people to come together and say ‘enough,’” he said. “The crisis is costing the French economy dearly…our interest is for this to stop as soon as possible.”
On Monday, two leaders within Italy’s coalition government urged the Yellow Vests not to give up.
“I support honest citizens protesting against a president who governs against his people,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League.
“Yellow vests, do not weaken!” added Luigi Di Maio, leader of the populist Five Star Movement.