General

France set for more ‘yellow vest’ protests despite Macron concessions

PARIS, Thousands of France's yellow vest demonstrators were expected to take to the streets again on Saturday, a month after the start of their protest movement which has plunged President Emmanuel Macron's government into its biggest crisis.

The number of protesters who turn out could determine the fate of the

movement, five days after Macron announced a series of tax and wage

concessions in a bid to end the unrest.

The last three Saturdays have been marked by violent demonstrations, with

barricades being set on fire on the ChampsElysees.

Until now, however, the nationwide grassroots movement has been backed by

a majority of French people, but two polls published on Tuesday in the

wake of Macron's concessions found the country was now split broadly 5050

on whether protests should continue.

Demonstrations started on November 17 in opposition to hikes in fuel taxes,

but have since snowballed into a broader opposition to Macron's probusiness

agenda and style of government.

Images of road blocks, massive traffic jams and mobs rioting on the streets

of Paris have dented France's image, as well as Macron's hopes of forcing

through more businessfriendly reforms.

Many of the movement's figureheads, along with leaders of the farleft

Unbowed France party, have urged protesters to turn out, particularly in

Paris, to pressure the government into making further concessions.

Need for calm

Others have suggested that the mostly small town and rural protesters

should show resolve by rallying in the regions rather than heading for the

capital where large numbers of security forces are being deployed in the

expectation of violence fomented by many farright and farleft agitators.

France needs calm, order and to go back to its normal functioning, Macron

said Friday. But he refrained from directly calling for protesters to stay at

home.

Speaking in the wake of a terrorist attack Tuesday in the eastern city of

Strasbourg, which left four dead and 12 wounded, Interior minister Christophe

Castaner criticised yellow vests who clashed with police in southern France

Thursday night at a time when hundreds of security forces were involved in

tracking the fugitive killer who was later shot dead.

I find it inadmissable that today we are applauding our police and then

tomorrow some people think it's ok to go and throw stones at them, Castaner

said Friday morning, referring to how people in Strasbourg clapped to thank

the police after news of the suspect's death.

In a bid to end the protests, Macron has cancelled the planned fuel tax

hikes and offered a rise in the minimum wage, tax relief for pensioners and

taxfree overtime for workers in 2019.

The total package has been estimated by economists to cost up to 15 billion

euros ($17 billion), which is expected to be financed mostly by government

borrowing.

But some protesters think they should capitalise on the concessions.

What Macron did on Monday, was a call to carry on because he has started

to give ground, which is unusual for him, a senior figure in the yellow

vest movement, Eric Drouet, said in a video posted on Facebook.

Around 8,000 police will be on duty in Paris on Saturday, the same number

as last weekend, backed up by 14 armoured vehicles, water cannon and horses.

Around 90,000 security forces were mobilised last Saturday across France

and 2,000 people detained, around half of them in Paris.

Six people have died in the protests most as a result of trafficrelated

accidents and hundreds have been injured.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)