PARIS, Dec 30 — Police fired tear gas at “yellow vest” demonstrators in Paris yesterday but the turnout for round seven of the popular protests that have rocked France appeared low.
Several hundred people wearing the symbolic hi-visibility vests had gathered near the offices of several state-run television stations and the BFM TV channel in the centre of the capital shouting “Fake news” and calling for the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.
Protesters spilled onto tram lines and lobbed projectiles at police who replied with tear gas grenades and detained several people.
Several cars were also set alight outside the offices of the Le Parisien newspaper, although a fire service spokesman said it was not clear if the blaze was linked to the protests.
Tear gas was also fired in Nantes, western France, and protests were expected in Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse.
In the southern city of Marseille, police said around 1,000 protesters turned out, amid cries of “Macron out.”
The official turnout numbers have plunged with the passing weeks, with police saying some 12,000 had joined Saturday's rally by midday. The government recorded 38,600 demonstrators on December 22 compared to 282,000 for the first major demonstrations on November 17.
But leading figures within the movement that has flourished outside of trade union and political groups, say the low numbers are due to the holiday season and January will bring a resurgence of the street protests.
The focus of the protests has morphed from anger over fuel taxes to a broad rebuke of Macron, accused by critics of neglecting the rising costs of living for many in rural and small-town France.
“We want to get our purchasing power back and have a say in the decisions,” said Priscillia Ludosky, who launched the yellow vest petition against fuel price hikes.
Government tax concessions to boost disposable income among the low paid “are not enough,” Ludosky said in Marseille.
The movement has increasingly targeted Macron and 40 “yellow vests” on Thursday tried to storm the medieval fort of Bregancon that serves as his official summer retreat on the Mediterranean before being turned back by police.
Die-hard yellow vest supporters believe the movement will live on in 2019 and plans are underway for New Year's Eve protests.
Nearly 8,000 people are listed on Facebook as intending to attend, insisting it will be “festive and non-violent.”
Paris officials said preparations would continue for a fireworks display and sound and light show on the Champs-Elysee, the epicentre of repeated violent action against the government, with the Arc de Triomphe ransacked on December 1.
Tens of thousands of tourists and locals traditionally ring in the new year on the wide shopping boulevard, which rises to the Arc monument. — AFP