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Gilets jaunes Acte 49 honours France’s firefighters

Gilets jaunes protesters marched in honour of France’s striking firefighters this weekend, in what is being called the “Acte 49 (49th act)” of the movement.

Movements were seen in Paris, Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon (both Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), Toulouse (Occitanie), Lille (Hauts-de-France) and Bordeaux (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), on Saturday October 19.

It was the 49th consecutive gilets jaunes protest, with the movement set to mark its first anniversary in two weeks. It began as a protest against rising fuel taxes in November 2018.

In some cities, including Pau (Nouvelle-Aquitaine), firefighters also took part in the marches, but in others - such as Bordeaux - the march route simply passed in front of fire stations, as a sign of both groups joining forces against the government.

In Bordeaux, 400 protesters marched in front of a fire station, which had the words “Firefighters on strike” displayed. In Lyon, the march attempted to include all of the city’s fire stations in its route, starting with the city’s third arrondissement.

Many marchers themselves held banners reading “Solidarity with the firefighters”.

Hundreds of people came from across France to join the marches, especially in Clermont-Ferrand, which was seen as the centre of the movement.

One woman, from Eure-et-Loir (Centre-Val de Loire), told the Agence France-Presse: “I am a single mother, and I am struggling. We must show people that we are ready to re-launch the [gilets jaunes] movement.”

Loïc Prud’homme, MP for the Gironde, was among those who tweeted his support for the demonstrations.

In Toulouse, an estimated 300 protesters stopped their march in front of a fire station, with marchers chanting “Thank you, thank you” and applauding. Later, protesters attempted to cross a bridge back to the centre of the city, but were blocked by police, who threw tear gas at the crowd.

Most marches appeared relatively peaceful, although nine people were reportedly arrested in Clermont-Ferrand by the middle of the afternoon, according to authorities.

Firefighters across France have been on strike for four months, and themselves protested in Paris last Tuesday (October 15). They are denouncing a lack of resources, staff, and recognition for their profession.

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