February 16, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – France’s “yellow vest” protests are part of a humanist movement aimed at improving the lives of everyone in the country, one demonstrator said on Saturday, defending those who took to the streets for the 14th weekend in a row.
A poll this week showed dwindling support for the demonstrations, named for motorists’ high-visibility jackets, which began in November over fuel taxes and morphed into a more general revolt against politicians and a government they see as out of touch.
More than half of those surveyed said they wanted the occasionally violent protests to end.
“I can understand that some people have had enough, but we’re not doing this just for us,” said Madeleine, a 33-year old unemployed protester. “It’s a very humanist movement and we’re doing this for everyone. So if right now they’re fed up, then too bad for them.”
There has been infighting between leaders of the grassroots movement, although some have outlined plans to extend the weekly protests to Sunday.
The number of protesters have fallen from highs of over 300,000 nationwide in November to around 50,000 last week, according to government estimates.
In Paris, protesters gathered at the symbolic rallying point at Arc de Triomphe, a flashpoint of violent clashes with the police in the early days of the protest, before marching toward the Eiffel Tower and through other majors streets in Paris.
Protesters also gathered in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, and Strasbourg in the east, while some protesters tried to block a depot operated by online retail giant Amazon in Toulouse, in the south of France, BFM Television reported.
(Reporting by Bate Felix, Simon Carraud, Yonathan Van der Voort and Ardee Napolitano; Editing by Hugh Lawson)