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15.11.2019 Europe

Tension mounts as French Yellow Vests call for massive turnout to mark anniversary

By RFI
©REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
NOV 15, 2019 EUROPE

Paris police are preparing for several thousand Yellow Vest demonstrators on Saturday, the first anniversary of the protest movement. More than 200 appeals have been issued on social media, calling on activists to distribute handouts or block roadway roundabouts. The Paris demonstration is expected to attract some of the most radical elements of the movement.

The Yellow Vest protest movement has lost momentum over recent months, with a relatively small number of demonstrations attracting few activists.

The early days of this citizens revolt saw parts of Paris and several other major cities turned into war zones as police battled protestors, with anarchist elements and petty criminals profiting from the general confusion to advance their own interests.

Recent Saturday protests by supporters of the movement have failed to mobilise large numbers, compared to the 282,000 who, according to police estimations, participated on the inaugural weekend, 17 November 2018.

This weekend, with more than 200 activities planned, organisers are hoping for a large turnout to mark the first anniversary of protests sparked by government plans to increase the price of diesel.

Radical protestors
The security authorities fear a return to the streets of some of the most radical activists.

On Friday morning, one hundred Yellow Vest protestors blocked the entrance to a chemical plant near the city of Saint-Nazaire in western France. They were dispersed by police.

An opinion poll published this week suggests that 55 percent of the French are either supportive of or sympathetic to the movement. But 63 percent in the same poll say they do not want the public protests to resume.

Paris police say they are preparing for a demonstration by "several thousand" people, including between 200 and 300 radical Yellow Vests and perhaps as many left-wing extremists.

One leader of the movement, Eric Drouet, has called for a snail's-pace protest by drivers on the ring road surrounding the French capital.

The central Parisian avenue des Champs-Elysées will be closed to protestors. But organisers have advised those wishing to take part to remove their yellow vests as they approach police checkpoints.

Meetings have been called in other cities, including Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes and Toulouse.

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