French police on Saturday fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse stone-throwing “yellow vest” protesters in Paris on the first anniversary of the movement challengingFrench President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.
Clashes broke out in other cities as activists rallied to prove their movement is still a force a year after the first giant protest on Nov. 17 last year, which drew 282,000 people.
Numbers attending the protests and levels of violence have sharply diminished from the height of the movement, which began on the back of frustration that Macron was failing to address the needs of ordinary French people.
However, Saturday’s protests marked the first serious clashes for months in central Paris between security forces and demonstrators.
The French Ministry of the Interior put the number of demonstrators at 28,600 nationwide, but organizers said nearly 40,000 people had rallied.
Tensions focused on the Place d’Italie square in southeast Paris.
Police in full riot gear flooded the area in tear gas and used water cannons after demonstrators threw stones, set garbage bins alight, overturned cars and set them ablaze, it was reported.
Several demonstrators and a freelance journalist were injured.
Police had arrested 147 people across Paris by 8pm.
Police also fired tear gas in the Les Halles area, near the Pompidou Centre to break up demonstrations.
The yellow vests wanted the protests to take place on Saturday — their usual day of protest — and also yesterday, the anniversary day, to remind Macron that they have not vanished from the scene.
Police were deployed in numbers, especially along the Champs-Elysees, which was again closed off to demonstrators.
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