France’s Yellow Vests Mobilise For Fresh Round Of Protests

Masked demonstrators stand amid smoke of teargas canisters launched by anti-riot police.

Paris, France: 

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched in cities across France on Saturday in a new round of “yellow vest” protests against President Emmanuel Macron, accused of ignoring the plight of millions of people struggling to make ends meet.

Officials have vowed zero tolerance for the violence that has marred the weekly protests since they began two months ago, deploying some 80,000 security forces nationwide.

In Paris, epicentre of the fiery street clashes and vandalism that have made global headlines, 5,000 riot police were on hand, using tall barricades and armoured vehicles to lock down the central Place de la Concorde and surrounding districts.

Hundreds of officers were also on guard on the Champs-Elysees, where banks, jewellery stores and other shops had boarded up windows in anticipation of renewed looting and violence.

Yet many cafes and retailers on the iconic avenue remained open for business, as several thousands of protesters marched calmly from the Place de la Bastille toward the Arc de Triomphe early in the afternoon.

Many sang the “Marseillaise” national anthem, while others held signs saying “Insecurity is not a job!”

At times the crowd yelled “Free Christophe!” in reference to Christophe Dettinger, the former professional boxer arrested last week after being filmed bashing two police officers during the Paris demos.

Police said some 30 people had been detained in the capital earlier for carrying weapons or other charges.

“We’ve come to Paris to make ourselves heard, and we wanted to see for ourselves at least once what’s going on here,” said Patrick, 37, who told AFP he had travelled from the Savoie region of western France.

‘Macron resign!’

In the well-heeled racehorsing town of Chantilly just north of Paris, 1,000 or so protesters marched through the centre before descending on the hippodrome where they delayed the start of a race, local media said.

And another 1,200 protesters gathered in the central city of Bourges, where some yellow-vest organisers were hoping to those from areas far from the capital.

Signs said “Macron resign!” and “France is angry,” while local prosecutor Joel Garrigue said five people had been detained after police discovered a cache of ball bearings during a search of their car.

The protests also spilt over the border into eastern Belgium late on Friday, where one of around 25 protesters manning a blockade died after being hit by a truck, Belgian media reported.

Mutual mistrust

Officials had warned of bigger and more violent protests than last week, when demonstrators rammed a forklift truck through the main doors of a government ministry in Paris.

“Those who are calling to demonstrate tomorrow know there will be violence, and therefore they are in part responsible,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a Facebook interview Friday with Brut, a digital news site favoured by many yellow vests.

But many yellow vests pointed to images of a police officer repeatedly striking an unarmed man on the ground during a protest last week in Toulon, accusing the police of excessive use of force.

The movement, which began as protests over high fuel taxes, has snowballed into a wholesale rejection of Macron and his policies, which are seen favouring the wealthy at the expense of rural and small-town France.

Politicians inspire ‘distrust, disgust’

Macron has called for a national debate starting next week to hear voters’ grievances, hoping to sate demands for more of a say in national law-making and tamp down the protesters’ anger.

He has already unveiled a 10-billion-euro ($11.5 billion) financial relief package for low earners, and axed the planned fuel tax hike.

But the public consultations risk being hobbled by record levels of distrust towards politicians and representatives of the state.

A poll by the Cevipof political sciences institute released Friday showed 77 percent of respondents thought politicians inspired “distrust”, “disgust” or “boredom”.

And Macron may not have done himself any favours on Friday, when he told a gathering at the Elysee Palace that “too many of our citizens think they can get something without making the necessary effort.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal To Mobilise Public Opinion For Delhi’s Full Statehood

Arvind Kejriwal says it’s an insult to Delhi citizens that the city does not have full statehood. (File)

New Delhi: 

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said he will mobilise public opinion over the next one year to earn full statehood to the national capital.

He was addressing a function to mark the 25th anniversary of the Delhi Assembly’s first sitting on December 14, 1993.

Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel, in his address, said Delhi’s chief ministers from other political parties over the years had demanded full statehood for the Union Territory.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia echoed their views and said the government has to go to the court if it wants to work for the welfare of its people.

Mr Kejriwal said it’s an insult to Delhi’s citizens that the city does not have full statehood.

“We will go out among people to unite them to raise the demand of full statehood for Delhi. We will also be organising events to celebrate the silver jubilee of the Delhi Assembly’s first sitting. In 1947, the country got independence and people got the right to choose their state governments which have power. But Delhi’s citizens do not have independence. Why this step-motherly treatment for Delhi?” he asked.

He expressed the hope that Delhi would get full statehood in the next five years.

He said the Delhi government under Sheila Dikshit had powers but his government’s powers were “taken away” through a notification issued by the Central government in May 2015.

“In this Assembly, former chief minister Madan Lal Khurana had said, ‘I do not even have the power of a peon’. The chosen government here does not have the power to take decisions for the welfare of the people,” he said.

Mr Kejriwal also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.

“The duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is dangerous for our country’s present and future. If they are voted to power again, they would not even spare the Constitution of the country. It is the responsibility of every patriotic Indian citizen to ensure that they are defeated. We will do everything to ensure their defeat,” he said on the sidelines of the event.

Mr Goel said in the last two years, no bills have been brought to the Delhi Legislative Assembly.

“Eighteen bills are lying with the Central government. It is really sad that Delhi’s people are deprived of the benefits they would have got had those bills been passed by the central government. In the last two years, no bills have been brought to the Delhi Assembly,” he said.

He said the demand for full statehood for Delhi has resonated in the Delhi Legislative Assembly several times.

He also used the occasion to highlight the fact that the MLAs have been working on salaries that were last hiked in 2011 and he alleged the central government was not bothered about it.

Purushottam Goel, who was a chairman of the Delhi Metropolitan Council, the body that preceded the Assembly, was the chief guest at the event.

“It is wrong that the Central government, through the LG, is trying to run the Delhi government. I can assure you that the BJP is not coming to power in the next five to 10 years,” he said.

Earlier, the Delhi Assembly had adopted a resolution on “full statehood” during a special session. At that time, Kejriwal had said he would campaign for the BJP if the Centre granted full statehood to Delhi.

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