France saw its lowest turnout of 23,000 Gilet Jeune protesters this week, many of whom carried French flags and held signs calling for President Emmanuel Macron to hold referendums for citizens to have a say in big policy decisons. By this afternoon, there were 21 arrests in Paris and also a few clashes with police in Rouen. Hundreds of people gathered around an area barricaded by the police shouting, “Macron, get lost for good!”
But the demonstrations were mostly peaceful overall.
Mr Macron wrapped up two months of nationwide town hall meetings as part of his “grand debat” initiative this week.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due on Monday to outline the initial findings that emerged from hours of discussions with local mayors and officials, high-school students, workers, intellectuals as well as 1.9 million online contributions.
Macron, who launched the debate in a bid to calm the protests and determine which policies people want the government to focus on, is due to announce proposals based on the results later this month.
The protests are named after the high-visibility safety jackets worn by demonstrators.
They began in November as an expression of public anger against fuel tax increases.
The movement soon turned into a broader backlash against Macron’s government, despite a swift reversal of the tax increases and other hurried measures worth more than 10 billion euros to boost purchasing power for less affluent voters.
By midday today, turnout was 6,300 demonstrators nationwide, according to government estimates, compared with 5,600 at the same time a week earlier.
In Paris, two rallies had been authorised, including one from Place de la Republique in the east to La Defense business district in the west.
Turnout was 3,100 by 12pm against 1,800 at the same time last week.
It was difficult to compare the figures because this week’s marches started earlier than last week.
Last week, in “Act 20” of the Yellow Vest protests, at least 33,700 people took to the streets, according to the French Interior Ministry.