'Gilets jaunes': Turnout down after Macron promises reforms

Demonstration in Strasbourg, France, 27 April 2019
Demonstration in Strasbourg, France, 27 April 2019 Copyright REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
By Chris HarrisSandrine Amiel
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Anti-government protesters hit the streets in France again on Saturday in a key test of President Emmanuel Macron's authority.


The so-called "gilets jaunes" protesters were back on the streets across France on Saturday (27 April) two days after Macron outlined policy proposals including €5bn worth of tax cuts in response to the protests.

Although many prominent figures of the movement said the reforms did not meet their demands, protests turnout was in decline compared to last week.

The French interior ministry counted 23,600 protesters throughout France this Saturday, compared to 27,900 at the same time last week.

The "gilets jaunes" have repeatedly challenged the government's figures and said they counted "at least 60,132 protesters" nationwide on Saturday.

The "gilets jaunes" ("yellow vest") movement, which began as dissent against fuel tax hikes but has since snowballed into a more general backlash against Macron and his government, has been demonstrating for 24 consecutive weekends since early November.

Macron announced reforms on Thursday that came out of a national debate initiated to appease the protesters.

He promised tax cuts, higher pensions for the poorest citizens and reform of France’s civil service.

He also recognised that some demands from the "gilets jaunes" movement were "fair" and said people were right to be impatient for changes to be implemented.

The turnout at protests is likely to be considered as a key barometer on whether Macron's reforms will quell the current unrest.

Strasbourg clashes

Strasbourg was the epicentre of the movement this weekend, as the "gilets jaunes" have launched an international appeal to march to the European Parliament ahead of the EU elections to be held later this month.

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Publiée par Gilets Jaunes Alsace, tous ensemble sur Vendredi 26 avril 2019

Around 2,000 protesters gathered near the seat of European Union institutions in the eastern French city, according to authorities.

Police fired several canisters of tear gas to push back the demonstrators, Reuters reported.

French television showed some hooded protesters throwing back stones and other objects at the police.

In the capital Paris, which has witnessed some of the worst violence in past protests, Saturday's demonstration, jointly organised with trade union confederation CGT, was mostly calm.

Read more: French government will give tax cuts to the middle class in a bid to quell current unrest

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