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Drop in gilets jaunes as France enacts protest bans

There was a drop in gilets jaunes protesters in France this weekend, with 33,700 in total - according to official figures - as many cities enacted their protest bans in anticipation of escalating violence.

Across the country, 27 decrees were enacted on Saturday March 30 - the 20th consecutive weekend of the movement - forbidding any protests that authorities believe have the potential to become violent and destructive.

The new protest fine of €135 per person for anyone found in breach of the rules, was also in place.

Overall, there was a drop in numbers compared to the 40,500 counted nationwide last weekend.

There were 4,000 protesters in Paris, and 25 arrests. Protests had been outlawed on and around the famous Champs-Elysées avenue - following violence in recent months - but the march continued from Place du Trocadéro.

In Avignon, all gilets jaunes protests had been banned in the town centre and surroundings, but a few hundred women marched together, saying “no to dictatorship, we have the right to protest, we are in France”. Overall, 21 people were arrested as several hundred protesters marched.

There were clashes in Bordeaux, despite its mayor having called for the town centre to become a “dead town” in fear of the threat of “hundreds of vandals”. Building materials and tyres were set on fire in the centre, with some fights with law enforcement breaking out later.

In Montpellier, two police officers were injured by thrown projectiles, during the protest of around 1,650 people. Eight people, who “were aiming to create public order trouble” were arrested.

In Toulouse, several hundred people gathered for a protest despite the ban of any movement in the central Place du Capitole.

In Lille, there were between 1,000-2,000 protesters, despite the town authorities taking out a decree banning protests in the town centre in fear of the “violence and damage”. Protesters therefore took “an alternative [march] route”.

Tear gas was used against certain protesters, especially those dubbed “black blocks”, who were dressed in black, and were graffiting buildings, including a bank. Four people were arrested after an “incident between gilets jaunes and some football supporters”, according to a statement from the Nord authorities.

In Nice, there were clashes between protesters and police, especially in relation to Geneviève Legay, a protester in her seventies who was injured during the movement last week, allegedly after being pushed by a police officer.

Protesters in the Provence city called for the police commissioner responsible to “go to prison”.

But in a statement, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said: “[I am calling for] a state of emergency for police officers and gendarmes. I am sounding the alarm; law enforcement force are at the edge of exhaustion, and are at risk of taking early retirement.

“I ask the government and the minister of the Interior to decree a state of emergency so that police and gendarmes can meet, as soon as possible, with unions and protesters.”

Despite the overall drop in numbers, protesters present appeared defiant.

One man in Paris who spoke to Agence France-Presse said: “In 2025, we may have won. We will be here as long as [President Emmanuel Macron] does not listen.”

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