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'Yellow vest' numbers down in 20th week of French protests

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'Yellow vest' numbers down in 20th week of French protests
Protesters wearing yellow vests attend a demonstration during the Act XX (the 20th consecutive national protest on Saturday) of the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau   -   Copyright  CHARLES PLATIAU(Reuters)
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PARIS (Reuters) – Thousands of demonstrators marched in cities around France on Saturday for a 20th weekend of “yellow vest” protests, but numbers were lower and clashes with police sporadic.

Outbreaks of vandalism and confrontations with police led to more than 100 arrests on the margins of otherwise peaceful demonstrations in Paris, Avignon, Toulouse and Bordeaux – where protesters broke the windows of a bank before being pushed back.

The protests, named after the high-visibility safety jackets worn by demonstrators, began in November as an expression of public anger against fuel tax increases.

The movement soon morphed into a broader backlash against President Emmanuel Macron’s government, despite a swift reversal of the tax increases and other hurried measures worth more than 10 billion euros (8.59 billion pounds) to boost purchasing power for less affluent voters.

But participation was down to about 33,400 demonstrators nationwide on Saturday, according to government estimates, compared with 40,500 at the same time a week earlier. In mid-November, nearly 300,000 had demonstrated in French cities.

Authorities had advised business owners to stay closed in likely trouble spots and banned protests in others, including the French capital’s Champs Elysees, fearing a repetition of the large-scale destruction seen two weeks earlier.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Laurence Frost; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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