French yellow vests protest for 16th straight weekend
PARIS (AP) — Thousands of French yellow vests protested Saturday for a 16th straight weekend in Paris and other cities to show they are keeping up momentum against the government's economic policies they see as favoring the rich.
In Paris, more than a thousand protesters marched peacefully through well-off western neighborhoods of the capital, starting from the Arc de Triomphe monument to reach a southern plaza. The demonstration was placed under tight security.
Police forces were dispersing dozens of protesters who remained near the Champs-Elysees avenue.
Many other rallies were organized across the country. Some brief scuffles between protesters and police broke out in the cities of Lyon, Lille and Nantes, but no serious injuries were reported.
Organizers said they want to maintain pressure on the government as a two-month "grand debate" initiated by Macron to let ordinary French people express their views on the country's economic and democratic issues is ending this month.
Sophie Tissier, a coordinator of the Paris protest, told The Associated Press that "we keep protesting every Saturday because Macron doesn't respond at all to the yellow vests' demands. We want to rebuild our democracy and change today's political system."
"Macron is contemptuous and ... does not even try to understand that there are people that are living in great poverty and precariousness, and that there are so many inequalities," she added.
Supports for the movement has ebbed in recent weeks as outbreaks of violence continue, including last month when a few protesters hurled a torrent of anti-Semitic insults at noted philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the sidelines of a Paris march.
The movement was named after the fluorescent vests that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes, but have expanded into a broader public rejection of Macron's economic policies, which protesters say favor big businesses and the wealthy over ordinary workers.
Macron has since announced a package of measures worth about 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) to boost workers' and retirees' purchasing power and launched a national debate that is taking place through meetings across France and a dedicated website until mid-March.
Many yellow vests reject the debate which they consider as politically driven to serve the government's interests.