Embattled President Emmanuel Macron’s hopes that the “yellow vest” movement is waning have been dashed by tens of thousands who marched in Paris and other cities for the fifteenth consecutive weekend of anti-government demonstrations.
Some 46,600 people joined the protests nationwide, including 5,800 in the capital, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday. That was up from 41,500 last week, with 5,000 in Paris.
Protesters disputed the figures, with some putting the actual number at twice the official estimates.
Demonstrations have generally been smaller since a peak in December when the French capital saw some of the worst rioting, vandalism and looting in decades.
The protests – named after the fluorescent jackets French drivers have to carry in their cars – began in mid-November over rising fuel prices and the cost of living, but swelled into a broader movement against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms.
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Police said 28 people were arrested in Paris, but protesters marched mostly peacefully through the capital’s wealthier neighbourhoods surrounded by a heavy police presence.
As the march wound down, scuffles broke out and police used tear gas to disperse crowds at the Place du Trocadero overlooking the Seine river and across from the Eiffel Tower. Two people were injured.
Some 18 people were also arrested in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand and potentially dangerous objects were seized ahead of a march in which police said 2,500 participated.
Another 18 people were arrested in the western city of Rennes where six police officers were slightly injured and six protesters were hurt by large riot control pellets fired by police.
The movement has posed the biggest challenge to Macron’s authority since he came to office in May 2017, although it faces increased infighting as some members have sought to run in upcoming European Parliament elections.