Yellow Vest anger burns in France, fuelled by Notre Dame fire

Sunday, April 21, 2019

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PARIS, France (AP) — French Yellow Vest protesters set fires along a march route through Paris yesterday to drive home their message to a government they see as out of touch with the problems of the poor: that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre-Dame Cathedral isn't the only problem France needs to solve.

Like the high-visibility vests the protesters wear, the scattered small fires in Paris appeared to be a collective plea to the Government to “look at me — I need help too!”

Police fired from water cannons and sprayed tear gas to try to control radical elements on the margins of the largely peaceful march, one of several actions around Paris and other French cities.

The protesters were marking the 23rd-straight weekend of Yellow Vest actions against economic inequality and President Emmanuel Macron's Government, which they see as favouring the wealthy and big businesses at the expense of ordinary workers. Protesters see themselves as standing up for beleaguered French workers, students, and retirees who have been battered by high unemployment, high taxes, and shrinking purchasing power.

Associated Press reporters saw a car, motorbikes and barricades set ablaze around the Place de la Republique plaza in eastern Paris — the smell of tear gas fired by police mixed with the smoke, choking the air.

Paris firefighters — who struggled earlier last week to prevent the 12th century Notre-Dame from collapsing — quickly responded to extinguish the flames at yesterday's protest.

One masked protester dressed in black jumped on a Mercedes parked along the march route, smashing its front and back windshields.

Paris police headquarters said authorities detained 137 people by early afternoon and carried out spot checks on more than 14,000 people trying to enter the capital for the protests.

The tensions focused on a march of several thousand people that started at the Finance Ministry in eastern Paris to demand lower taxes on workers and retirees, and higher taxes on the rich.

Another group of about 200 people tried to march to the president's Elysee Palace in central Paris, but riot police blocked them at the neo-classical Madeleine Church.


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