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Protests by 'yellow jackets' calmer, fewer numbers in France

By Allen Cone
Protests by 'yellow jackets' calmer, fewer numbers in France
Protesters gather during a "yellow jacket" demonstration on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on Saturday. Photo by Etienne Laurent/EPA

Dec. 15 (UPI) -- For the fifth week in a row, protesters took the streets in Paris but in a calmer manner and with fewer numbers.

Wearing their yellow vests, an estimated 2,200 people demonstrated in Paris compared with 10,000 the previous week, Sky News reported. About 66,000 still protested across France, according to the interior ministry's count at 6 p.m. in the cold and rain.

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"Yellow jacket" protests have targeted President Emmanuel Macron and his economic policies. The demonstrations were initially against planned tax hikes on gas but they have taken a broken criticism of Macron's presidency, including his attempts to reform France's troubled economy. In an effort to stop the unrest, Macron has announced a series of economic concessions, including canceling the fuel duty rise and announcing a rise in the minimum wage by $100 a month.

On Saturday, the protests were mainly peaceful with few clashes, NBC News reported from Paris. Protesters held a minute of silence for those injured and killed in clashes with police.

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Some storefronts were boarded up but others were open for Christmas shoppers.

"It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told CNews television

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About 8,000 police were deployed in Paris and thousands more across the country. Police wore riot gear and water cannons were available to control unruly crowds.

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During the first month of confrontation with police, there were six deaths, many injuries and hundreds of arrests.

On Saturday, a driver died after colliding with a truck stopped by protesters near the Belgian border.

Despite calmer protests, there were 148 arrests in France, the interior ministry said.

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Tear gas was fired at a small group of protesters near the Champs-Elysees in Paris as topless activists from the feminist protest group Femen encountered security forces near the president's residence, the Élysées Palace.

About 1,000 people gathered by the city's opera house and another 1,000 at the Arc de Triomphe, which was vandalized with spray paint in previous demonstrations.

Macron called for peace on Friday.

The government said: "Protesting is not smashing our heritage. Protesting is not smashing our businesses. Protesting is not smashing our republic."

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