Yellow vest protesters target French media as movement ebbs
PARIS (AP) — Yellow vest protesters marched on the headquarters of leading French broadcasters Saturday, as small groups turned out in Paris and around France despite waning momentum for their movement.
Hundreds of demonstrators — some chanting “Journalists - Collaborationists!” — gathered at the central offices of television network BFM and state-run France Televisions. Some protesters hurled stones and other objects during scattered skirmishes with riot police firing tear gas.
Some members of the broad-based yellow vest movement accuse French leading news media of favoring President Emmanuel Macron’s government and big business and minimizing the protests — even though the demonstrations have been the leading news story in France since they kicked off Nov. 17.
Dozens of protesters twice tried to march on the elegant, tourist-filled Champs-Elysees, the site of repeated clashes between police and demonstrators in recent weeks. Blue police car lights flashed along the avenue glittering with red holiday decorations.
Another small group of yellow vest demonstrators gathered near the Eiffel Tower, where police officers arrested several. But by nightfall, tourists and couples were back at adjacent Trocadero plaza to enjoy spectacular views of the tower.
Both police and protesters appeared to be out in much smaller numbers than previous weekends.
The holiday season and winter chill may have put a damper on Saturday’s turnout, along with a raft of concessions by Macron to calm the movement after rioting nearly reached his presidential palace earlier this month.
Despite Macron’s offers of tax relief and other aid, many people remain frustrated with his pro-business leadership and are continuing to stage roadblocks at roundabouts around the country.
Peaceful gatherings were held Saturday in several cities, from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Albertville in the Alps and Rouen in Normandy. Protesters continued blocking roundabouts in several sites, tangling traffic and letting just a few drivers through at a time, on a busy weekend of holiday travel. They brandished French flags and placards with a range of demands.
New protests are expected on the Champs-Elysees on New Year’s Eve, when Paris puts on a light show that typically attracts large crowds of spectators. Paris police plan extra security for the annual event, which sometimes degenerates into violence after midnight.
The yellow vest movement was launched to express anger over fuel tax hikes hurting working people who commute by car, but grew to encompass broader anger over Macron’s economic policies. It’s named after the fluorescent protective gear French motorists must keep in their cars.