Gilets jaunes: Paramilitaries 'ready to intervene' in France protests

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By Chris Harris
Christophe Chalencon (left) watching a televised speech by France's PM
Christophe Chalencon (left) watching a televised speech by France's PM

A key figure in France’s "gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) movement has been secretly filmed claiming paramilitaries are ready to intervene in the anti-government protest.

Christophe Chalencon — whose recent meeting with Italy’s deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio intensified a diplomatic row between Rome and Paris — made the assertion to journalists from Italian television show Piazzapulita.

Fresh protests are set to hit Paris and other French cities on Saturday (February 16).

France’s interior minister, Christophe Castaner, dismissed Chalencon’s claim, asking whether the clip was an Italian comedy or “a new personal delirium”.

“We have guys, paramilitaries, who are ready to intervene,” said Chalencon. “Because they too want to topple the power.

“So today everyone is calm, but we’re at the limit of a civil war, I’m telling you.

“I will go to the end of my convictions. If they put a bullet in my head, the people will take Macron to the guillotine.”

France has been gripped by successive weekends of protests by “gilets jaunes” demonstrators.

The grassroots action began over fuel tax hikes but — despite Macron’s attempt to diffuse the situation — snowballed into a general anti-government protest, chiefly over the cost of living.

The “yellow vests” will be out on the streets this weekend, although figures from France’s interior ministry — contested by the protesters — indicate the number of people demonstrating has been falling for the last three weeks.

Public support for the movement is also dropping, according to an Elabe poll released on Wednesday. For the first time since November, a majority of French people (56%) want the protesters to stop.