Fewer “yellow vest” protesters turned out across France on Saturday, yet tensions between demonstrators and police boiled over in Paris later in the evening on the well-known Champs-Elysees thoroughfare.
Police fired tear gas and used water cannons against demonstrators. A video showed a group of protesters surrounding and attacking several police officers who were on motorcycles. One officer appeared to point his gun at the protesters, but Paris police told the Associated Press he did not fire his weapon.
Nationwide protests, which began Nov. 17 against a planned fuel tax increase, have continued into a sixth week. They have morphed into protests largely against President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal economic reform policies.
Reacting to the movement, on Dec. 10 Macron made tax and salary concessions. He has largely kept out of the public eye since then.
French officials estimated about 38,000 people had taken part in protests around the country Saturday, with Paris police estimating about 2,000 in the capital. By comparison, more than 280,000 people took part in nationwide protests Nov. 17. As many as 4,000 protesters were in Paris on Dec. 15.
On Saturday, police arrested 81 people nationwide, compared with several hundred arrests during nationwide protests two weeks ago, officials said.
Police were also called to protesters setting up roadblocks near France’s borders with Spain, Belgium, Italy and Germany.
Death toll rises to 10
Media reports said the death toll from the protests rose to 10 on Saturday, after a driver was killed overnight in southern France after driving into a truck that had been stopped by a roadblock.
The “yellow vest” movement was named after the safety vests French motorists are required to keep in their vehicles, which the protesters wear at demonstrations.