Europe

'Yellow vest' protests: Scattered demonstrations seen in France

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Media captionYellow Vests: Why Macron's concessions aren't enough for some

Small demonstrations by "yellow-vest" protesters have been seen throughout France for a sixth consecutive Saturday, but not on the scale of the ones seen in recent weeks.

About 2,000 people were demonstrating in Paris at around 16:00 (15:00 GMT), compared to about 4,000 last Saturday, police sources said.

Some 142 people have been arrested, including a protest leader, police say.

A man died in southern France, bringing the protests' overall death toll to 10.

His car hit a truck at a roadblock near Perpignan overnight on Friday, the authorities said on Saturday.

Protests have been dwindling since President Emmanuel Macron offered tax and salary concessions to the protesters earlier this month.

More than 38,000 demonstrators were protesting at 18:00 throughout the country compared with 66,000 last Saturday, the interior ministry said.

What happened during Saturday's protests?

There were some violent clashes on the Champs-Elysées in Paris as night fell, and 142 people were stopped and 16 detained, including a yellow-vest leader, Eric Drouet, Paris police said.

Despite this, traffic was normal and most shops, except for some luxury boutiques, were open for business in the run-up to Christmas.

French stores reported an average drop-off of 25% in sales compared with the same period a year earlier, junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told French TV.

The palace of Versailles outside Paris and its gardens were closed as the authorities prepared for possible unrest there. Instead, protesters gathered in the Montmartre area of northern Paris for a small-scale demonstration.

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Image caption Hundreds of "yellow vests" briefly blocked trucks near the French-Spanish border

There were other small-scale protests in the rest of the country, with hundreds of yellow vests briefly blocking trucks near the French-Spanish border before being dispersed by police.

Roadblocks were also reported in northern France near the border with Belgium.

Further demonstrations were planned around the country - though the movement seemed to be losing impetus in the run-up to Christmas.

Police fired tear-gas in the northern resort of Le Touquet to keep a crowd away from a house there owned by Mr Macron and his wife, Brigitte.

France's interior ministry said only 3,680 yellow vests had been counted on Thursday on the many traffic filtering points that have been appearing throughout the country since the beginning of the protests, their lowest number so far.

What is the yellow-vest movement?

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Media captionYellow vests: Is the symbol spreading across Europe?

The "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) protesters - named after the high-visibility jackets French motorists must carry in their cars - began in mid-November against fuel tax increases and later widened to include the liberal economic reform policies of President Macron.

They were initially protesting against a rise in duties on diesel, which is widely used by French motorists and has long been less heavily taxed than other types of fuel.

Mr Macron had said higher taxes on fossil fuels were needed to fund renewable energy investments.

But protests have also erupted over other issues, including calls for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions and easier university entry requirements.

Mr Macron responded by scrapping an unpopular fuel tax rise, and promising an extra €100 (£90; $114) a month for minimum wage earners and tax cuts for pensioners.

On Friday evening, the French Senate approved the measures which should come into force early next year.

Protest timeline

  • 17 November: 282,000 protesters - one dead, 409 injured - 73 in custody
  • 24 November: 166,000 protesters - 84 injured - 307 in custody
  • 1 December: 136,000 protesters - one dead, 263 injured - 630 in custody
  • 8 December: 136,000 protesters - 118 injured - 1,220 in custody
  • 15 December: 66,000 protesters - 7 injured (in Paris) - 115 in custody (in Paris)

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