Thousands of “yellow vest” protesters returned to the streets of France Saturday to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, clashing with police in several cities in a challenge to his bid to quell the movement.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon to push back protesters at Place de la Bastille in Paris, one of the regular protest areas, as some demonstrators threw stones from a building site.
The local prefecture reported 223 arrests in Paris, while the interior ministry estimated numbers for the 11th week of protests were at 69,000 across France, compared with 84,000 last Saturday.
The demonstrations erupted in mid-November over Macron’s economic reforms, but have since grown into a wider rallies calling for the resignation of the former investment banker who critics say is out of touch with the economic struggles of ordinary French people.
In Paris and other cities, the yellow vest movement had called for the protests to continue into the night.
But police quickly dispersed several hundred protesters in the capital’s symbolic Republique square, using stun grenades as well as tear gas and water cannon to clear the area, AFP journalists said.
Clashes erupted too in Nantes in western France and in the southern city of Montpellier, where a police officer was injured by “a pyrotechnic device”, said a statement from the local prefecture.
In Paris, the official count was 4,000 demonstrators against 7,000 the previous weekend.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Twitter criticised “rioters disguised as yellow vest protesters” after Saturday’s clashes.
– ‘Keep the pressure on’ –
The weekend’s protests against Macron’s tax and social policies came as divisions appeared among the yellow vests — named after the high-visibility vests they wear — as to where to take the movement.