Gilets jaunes protesters across France plan to present an “ultimatum” to President Emmanuel Macron for “Acte 18”, as the Grand Débat ends, and more protests begin.
The Acte 18 movement coincides with a number of other planned protests, including the “March of the century” on climate change, and a “solidarity march” against police violence and “State racism”.
This Saturday also marks four months since the start of the gilets jaunes protests, as the 18th consecutive weekend of the movement.
The intention to send a clear message to Mr Macron comes after several weeks of declining numbers at the protests. According to official figures from the ministry of the Interior, there were 28,600 protesters out across France last Saturday, versus 282,000 counted at the start of the movement.
But Eric Drouet, seen as one of the gilets jaunes leaders, said: “Now, things are getting serious. Acte 18 is here, and Macron – you can watch out, because there will be a growth in the movement. There will be only one gathering point for those who can make it: and that will be Paris.”
He added: “There will be a lot of people. We are expecting people from Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille, Rouen…it is going to be a packed day. There are lots of factors that mean we expect to see higher numbers than those seen on previous Saturdays.”
A number of Facebook Groups have been created about this weekend, including one named “Acte 18 – Ultimatum – La France entière à Paris (the whole of France to Paris)”. However, there are also signs that protests will also be planned for Bordeaux, Lyon, Montpellier, Dijon, and Caen.
This weekend coincides with a number of symbolic marches, and the end of the national Grand Débat, which was launched by President Macron two months ago in an attempt to address gilets jaunes grievances.
The Grand Débat concludes today (Friday March 15), as young people and students across the country have called for a mass walkout and protest over what they see as a lack of action from leaders on climate change.
Large plumes of smoke covered Paris’ skyline on Saturday as “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) protesters started bonfires in the street, smashed shop windows, and hurled cobblestones at riot police in the 18th consecutive weekend of anti-government protests.
In response to the violence, police used water cannons and fired tear gas in front of the Arc de Triomphe monument in Les Champs Elysees. At least 30 demonstrators were arrested by late morning.
Today’s protests were organised in an effort to reboot the Yellow Jackets campaign following weeks of declining participation. The movement started in November in response to a planned rise in fuel prices but has spiralled into a wider offence against President Emmanuel Macron’s government.
More than 1,400 police officers had been mobilised and that he had given an order to respond to the “unacceptable attacks with the greatest firmness.”
Protests still remained small compared with the early days of the movement, with an estimated 8,000 people on the streets Saturday.
Saturday’s protests were timed to coincide with the end of a two-month public debate launched by Macron, who travelled around the country to speak to communities in response to the protests.