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Sporadic clashes as 'yellow vests' rally in France

AFP  |  Paris 

"Yellow vest" protesters gathered in and other French cities Saturday for the 26th straight week of rallies against Emmanuel Macron, with scattered incidents of violence but overall a marked decline in the size of the crowds.

Several hundred people began marching near the Jussieu university in the centre of the capital, chosen to show solidarity with teachers who went on strike this week against an education reform project.

"It's going to be a day in support of parents, families and everyone in the education system," Jean-Christophe Valentin, a at the rally, told AFP.

With protests outlawed on the Champs-Elysees and a large part of central Paris, organisers had called for "national" rallies in the cities of and

Around 2,000 to 3,000 people turned out in both cities, AFP journalists estimated, confirming the decline in attendance since the protests began in November, when it hit a high of 282,000 across

The interior ministry, for its part, estimated just 2,700 protesters had turned out across as of 2:00 pm (1200 GMT), including 600 in Paris, compared with 3,600 counted at the same time last Saturday.

Tensions flared in when police charged a group of people throwing rocks and other objects, with at least one person evacuated by "street medics" among the protesters.

Officials had said they were expecting up to 500 far-left agitators in the city near France's western Atlantic coast, rekindling fears of fresh violence by so-called "black blocs".

A for CNews in was injured after being hit by a while filming the skirmish. "I'm fine because my support belt softened the impact," told AFP.

In both and Nantes, police used tear gas to disperse crowds as some masked protesters attempted to build makeshift barricades.

The Saturday protests have often been marred by rioting and clashes with police, prompting a crackdown that critics say has led to a disproportionate use of violence by security forces.

Several videos taken by bystanders in recent weeks, including one showing an hurling a paving stone toward demonstrators at a rally, have prompted inquiries by police investigators.

"There's a bit of along with the fear of police violence," said Thierry Boirivant, a 44-year-old who travelled to from the region.

"And then there's the economic factor: it's expensive to go protest in or other cities," he said.

Initially launched over fuel tax increases, the movement quickly snowballed into a widespread revolt against Macron, accused of ignoring the day-to-day struggles of low earners in small-town and rural

Several protesters are planning to run the elections later this month, hoping to turn their movement into a sustained political force.

"I'm calling on Europeans to make an anti-vote, even if he just finishes in second place, it would take him down a notch, bring him back down to earth so he can serve us instead of the rich," said in Lyon.

Rodrigues has emerged as one of the government's fiercest critics. He was already a well-known figure in the yellow vest movement when he was hit by a during one of the January protests and lost an eye.

"If he doesn't want to listen to us, we will keep up until he hears us, even if it means ruining his term" as president," he said.

In April, unveiled nearly 17 billion euros ($19 billion) in wage boosts and tax cuts for low earners to quell the protests, and vowed to better address voters' grievances after months of town-hall debates.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, May 11 2019. 22:41 IST