Gilets jaunes: Numbers drop but violence condemned

Clashes erupted in many cities including Paris, in the 12th consecutive weekend of protests

Around 58,600 gilets jaunes marched in France on the 12th consecutive Saturday this weekend, with 5,400 counted in the Drôme town of Valence alone, and many condemning police violence in particular.

This marks an overall decrease compared to the 69,000 people counted across the country last weekend, according to official figures from the minister of the Interior.

These figures are disputed by protesters themselves, some of whom said that the numbers were closer to 290,000.

Many protesters this weekend focused on the condemnation of police violence, with many holding banners calling for it to “stop” and others holding placards with photos of people who had been injured.

A “march for the injured” also started at midday in Paris, specifically condemning the Conseil d'Etat decision this week to authorise the continued use of the controversial flash ball weapon, the LBD (lanceur de balle de défense).

Marchers also welcomed and cheered the arrival of Jérôme Rodrigues, a gilets jaunes representative who was badly injured in the right eye on January 26, allegedly by a police officer.

There were some further clashes this weekend, with police using tear gas and water cannon towards some protesters in Paris who were said to be throwing projectiles. In the capital, 33 were arrested and clashes erupted in Place de la République.

In Strasbourg and Nancy, 32 people were arrested; in Bordeaux there were 17 arrests; and a protest in Nantes caused some damage, leading to four arrests and one injured police officer.

Crowds turned out for a protest movement in the Drôme town of Valence - location of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit last weekend for the Grand Débat.

Yet, official figures say just 5,400 showed up, compared to the 6,000-10,000 that had been previously suggested.

Ahead of the event, Valence mayor Nicolas Daragon said the town was making considerable preparations, and warned that support for the exceptional protest  had grown after the President’s visit, and news that a local employee had been fired due to his support of the gilets jaunes movement.

Several forbidden weapons were seized by local law enforcement, and 14 people had been arrested by lunchtime, according to local police.

Toulouse, Lille, Marseille, Tours and Lyon all saw protests of around 1,400-2,000 people, with marches across most other major towns, including Caen and Toulon.

Minister for the Interior, Christophe Castaner, tweeted thanks to law enforcement for this weekend, and continued to “condemn the damage and violence that was committed”, even as he admitted that “there had been fewer deplorable incidents”.

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