Thousands of Yellow Vest anti-government protesters in France have marched through the capital Paris and other cities on the 12th weekend of the rallies against political elite and what they call inequality in the country.
Several thousands of the demonstrators on Saturday took to the streets both to reiterate their demands and to pay homage to those injured since the onset of the rallies on November 17, which were initially against fuel tax hikes.
Protesters, carrying French flags and signs that attacked President Emmanuel Macron, also denounced the use of flash ball riot control guns, banned in much of Europe, by French riot police, who on Saturday fired tear gas canisters against the crowds of protesters to disperse them.
Macron’s government had on Friday warned that police would not hesitate to use flash balls in case of violence by protesters after it was authorized by the country’s highest administrative court.
Official figures showed that some 1,000 police personnel along with around 1,700 protesters have been injured since the start of anti-Macron rallies.
“It’s true that this intermediate weapon can hurt, but faced with rioters, the police need it to defend themselves against those who attack them,” said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, adding that some 80,000 security officials had been mobilized across the country, including 5,000 in Paris.
The mayor of Valence, a city in southeast France, said that measures had been adopted to confront some 10,000 protesters, as authorities fear that around 10 percent of demonstrators could be violent rioters.
The rallies in mid-November, named after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to carry in their cars, quickly morphed into a wholesale revolt against economic woes and Macron’s policies, triggering some of the capital’s worst cases of street violence in decades. The turmoil has claimed the lives of 10 people and wounded hundreds of others so far.
Macron’s party has recently witnessed a rebound in its poll scores, a development that can be interpreted as a clear sign of public approval for a harder stance he has adopted against the yellow vest demonstrators following a series of street riots that left many store windows smashed and cars burnt, apart from the human casualties.
On Friday, the results of a Harris Interactive Poll of 1,000 showed that the French president was gaining 4 percentage points since December, taking him to a 35-percent approval rating.