France′s ′yellow vest′ protesters block major route to Spain | News | DW | 22.12.2018
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France's 'yellow vest' protesters block major route to Spain

Toll booths on the A9 motorway were blocked by demonstrators for several hours. However, fewer than 2,000 people turned out across Paris to protest against rising living costs and the government's pro-business stance.

Watch video 04:14

Uproar against Macron

The French "yellow vest" protest movement was reduced from a roar to a whimper on Saturday as fewer than 2,000 people rallied in central Paris against President Emmanuel Macron's government.

The figure was less than half the number who turned out in the French capital over the previous weekend.

Across France, some 23,800 people joined in mostly peaceful demonstrations, down from 33,500 a week earlier, according to the Interior Ministry.

Detentions and clashes

Footage posted on social media showed a police officer deploying pepper spray and tear gas in the capital's iconic Champs-Elysees avenue during some evening clashes between motorcycle officers and protesters. 

Paris police said 142 people were detained and 19 taken into police custody, including a "yellow vest" leader, Eric Drouet. 

Concerns that protesters would disrupt proceedings outside the Palace of Versailles, on the edge of Paris, came to nothing when only 60 people turned up for a demonstration there. Many of the protesters gathered at the foot of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in the picturesque neighborhood of Montmartre near the center of the capital.

Disruption was more noticeable elsewhere in France, where protesters blocked the toll booth on the A9 motorway close to the French-Spanish border, near Perpignan. At one point, police used tear gas to disperse protesters and get traffic moving again.

Another death

Overnight into Saturday, a motorist was killed after hitting a truck stuck in a traffic jam, also close to Perpignan.

The driver became the 10th person to die during the protests, which began on November 17, initially in opposition to a rising fuel tax but later over the skyrocketing cost of living. Most of the victims died in traffic accidents.

Another border highway, which links France and northwestern Italy, saw a blockade by some 200 demonstrators.

Watch video 02:04

Yellow Vests: demonstrations hit the French economy

Roadblocks were also reported in northern France near the border with Belgium, while about 100 people blocked Strasbourg's Europe Bridge, near the German border, until police arrived.

Across the country, some 200 roundabouts remained occupied by protesters, and further demonstrations were planned for Saturday in Lyon, Toulouse, Orleans and Brittany.

Placatory measures

In response to a six-week campaign of public anger, the French parliament, meanwhile, passed €10 billion ($11.3 billion) of emergency measures on Friday to reduce the tax burden and increase purchasing power.

Although the nationwide demonstrations have lost momentum as the weeks have gone on, many observers expect the "yellow vests" to be out in force once again after the Christmas holidays.

kw, mm, es/jm (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

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