PARIS — Violence flared up Saturday on the streets of Paris for the 23rd weekend of “yellow vest” protests, marking a resurgence of the movement, but it was largely contained by a heavy police presence.
Around 9,000 demonstrators turned up in the French capital, according to official estimates, convening on the Place de la Republic, to the east, while the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was cordoned off from protesters, in lockdown mode with boarded up storefronts.
Demonstrators were also not allowed to approach the Notre Dame Cathedral, feared to be a target following criticism of the outpouring of donations to repair the fire-ravaged landmark. Pledges of hefty financial support from some of France’s wealthiest families fed into some of the anger fueling the protest movement, with critics saying it was a sign that the country’s elite, ruling classes are more concerned about material goods than helping people suffering from declining living standards.
French President Emmanuel Macron, the main target of yellow vest protesters who frequently chant for him to resign, has managed to take some of the steam out of the movement, holding a series of town hall discussions over the past two months to gain public input for a series of government measures to address the concerns that sparked the movement.
But his planned announcement of the new policies, meant to take place last week, coincided with the outbreak of the cathedral fire, and the speech was postponed as he rushed to the scene. It is now scheduled for April 25.
In Paris on Saturday, 6,700 troops channeled protesters through a set route, fining over a hundred who attempted to cross police lines to gain access to protected areas like the Champs-Élysées and Notre Dame, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Police managed to halt looting attempts and contain much of the violence compared to past protests, which had transformed parts of the city into battle zones. But there were still images of burning cars and clashes between riot police and protesters. Fourteen policemen were injured and 163 people were arrested.