Calls for Yellow Vest to debate no demonstrate fall on deaf ears

Protesters from the 'Gilets Jaunes' (Yellow Vests) movement take part in the 'Act X' demonstration (the 10th consecutive national protest on a Saturday) in Paris, France, Jan. 19, 2019. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

PARÍS.- Thousands of protesters took to the streets across France on Saturday for the 10th consecutive weekend of demonstrations, despite efforts by President Emmanuel Macron to channel yellow-vest anger through public debates over the next two months, according to a report from the Dow Jones Newswires made available to EFE.

In Paris, several thousand protesters clad in yellow reflective vests – known in France as gilets jaunes – some waving French flags, walked peacefully through the streets of the French capital under heavy police presence. About 80,000 police officers were deployed across the country, including 5,000 in Paris.

The yellow-vest movement, which began in November as a protest against an increase in gasoline tax, has become a broader rallying cry against Macron. Yellow-vests have staged protests, sometimes violent, every Saturday over the past two months.

The new protests on Saturday highlight the challenge Macron faces to get yellow-vests to the negotiating table and put an end to the unrest. Unless Macron quells the demonstrations, he is likely to struggle to advance the remainder of his pro-business agenda. Parliament is due to vote this year on overhauls of unemployment insurance and pensions, planks in the president’s platform.

The turnout on Saturday, however, was slightly lower than the previous weekend. By 2pm on Saturday, there were about 27,000 protesters across France, compared with 32,000 at the same time the week before, according to France’s interior ministry.

The French government on Tuesday kicked off months of public debates to take place around four themes: taxes and public spending; public services and the organization of local administrations; France’s transition to a low-carbon economy; and democracy and citizenship.

French citizens can register on a government website to organize meetings in their living rooms or in a local auditorium for 10 to several hundred people. Mayors provide organizers with documentation kits, including economic and statistical talking points, to help frame the discussions. At the end of the meetings, organizers need to write summary reports that will be published on the website.

On Saturday, about a dozen meetings were held in town halls, restaurants and public parks across the country.

The discussions will be narrowed on March 1 to regional debates involving randomly selected citizens, according to a spokeswoman from the prime minister’s office.

Finally, ideas and feedback will then be compiled by the government in a report that could lead to new measures, a referendum or law proposals.

By Noemie Bisserbe

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