PARIS — France’s yellow-vest protest movement continued to decline, with turnout dwindling to 800 in Paris for the seventh round of Saturday demonstrations, according to local authorities, who nonetheless are preparing for possible disruptions on New Year’s Eve.
“Weak turnout in the capital: 800 people spread across several erratic processions. No one hurt, nothing damaged,” said the Paris Préfecture de Police. Out of 57 people questioned, 33 were held in police custody.
The so-called yellow-vest protests, which have been taking place on Saturdays since November, retreated considerably over the last three weekends with fewer people taking to the streets. Last weekend’s demonstrations in the French capital were also sporadic, with numbers of protestors down to below 39,000 following 66,000 the previous week, according to government estimates. Flare-ups of violence in the Montmartre neighborhood as well as its famed Avenue des Champs Elysées last weekend, however, prompted calls for peace and order from the country’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
Gearing up for possible protests linked to the movement on New Year’s Eve, the Paris police department plans to secure the district surrounding the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe — conducting security checks before allowing people into the area — as well as deploying rapid-response teams to protect other parts of the capital. Parking and car traffic will be restricted throughout the city.
Authorities are also employing extra security measures near the Eiffel Tower, another gathering place for large crowds.
The U.S. Embassy in Paris on Friday issued an alert, noting that protests were expected across the country on Saturday, and warning they may impact New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Sparked by anger over an increase in the fuel tax, protests by demonstrators wearing yellow safety vests spread into an expression of broader discontent over declining living standards and took a violent turn that caught the country and its government off guard. Street battles between police and protestors turned the Avenue des Champs-Elysées — a world-famous shopping and tourist destination — into a war zone, prompting a lockdown that transformed parts of the city into a ghost town at one point.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s government responded by scrapping the increase and promoting measures to improve purchasing power, including one-off end-of-year bonuses for workers and allowing more stores to remain open on Sundays before the holidays.
Some retailers noted an increase in store traffic last weekend following over a month of disruptions to business during the crucial holiday season.