French yellow vest protests hit 9th week, clash with police

PARIS (AP) — Thousands of yellow vest protesters marched Saturday through Paris and other French cities for a ninth straight weekend to denounce President Emmanuel Macron's economic policies, and repeated tensions broke out with police.

Sporadic violence broke out during protests in Paris, Bourges, Bordeaux, Rouen, Marseille and Toulouse.

Protesters walked peacefully through central Paris from the Finance Ministry in the east of the French capital to the Arc de Triomphe in the west.

Scuffles between police and activists then broke out near the monument at the end of the march. Police used tear gas, water cannon and flash-balls to push back some people throwing rocks and other objects at them.

French security forces equipped with armored vehicles blocked protesters from going onto nearby Champs-Elysees Avenue. The neighborhood was reopened to car traffic later Saturday evening.

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The Interior Ministry said more than 100 people had been arrested in Paris and other French cities, including 82 who were kept in police custody, primarily for carrying potential weapons or taking part in violence.

The movement demanding wider changes to France's economy to help struggling workers appeared to gain new momentum this weekend. The French Interior Ministry said about 32,000 people turned out for yellow vest demonstrations across France at midday.

Several thousand protesters marched in the central city of Bourges, a provincial capital with a renowned Gothic cathedral and picturesque wood-framed houses.

French authorities deployed 80,000 security forces nationwide for the anti-government protests and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner threatened tough retaliation against any who rioted.

Paris police deployed armored vehicles, horses and attack dogs around the city on Saturday. Subway stations and some shops closed, notably around government buildings and the Champs-Elysees, the sparkling avenue whose luxury boutiques have been hit by repeated rioting in past protests.

The movement for greater economic equality waned over the holidays but appears to be resurging, despite Macron's promises of billions of euros in tax relief and an upcoming "national debate" to address demonstrators' concerns that Macron is expected to launch with a "letter to the French" on Monday.

The protests started in November with drivers who opposed fuel tax increases, which is why participants wear the fluorescent vests that French motorists must keep in their vehicles. But it has mushroomed into a broad-based revolt against years of shrinking purchasing power and Macron's pro-business policies.

Some yellow vest groups hope to translate that anger into votes in the European Parliament elections in May.

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