France’s ‘yellow vests’ block borders ahead of Christmas

Demonstrators of the French “yellow vests” (gilets jaunes) throws tear gas canisters back as police disperse the end of a protest in central Paris on December 22, 2018 as the movement turned out in small numbers for a sixth Saturday of nationwide demonstrations. (AFP)
Updated 23 December 2018

France’s ‘yellow vests’ block borders ahead of Christmas

  • Yellow vest protesters turned out in sharply reduced numbers at the start of the Christmas and New Year holidays
  • Still, some violent incidents in the French capital marred the end of a largely peaceful day

PARIS: Three days from Christmas, French “yellow vests” turned out in small numbers for a sixth Saturday of protests in cities and border points as a fatal road accident brought the death toll to 10 since the movement began last month.
Near the border between France and Spain hundreds of protesters disrupted traffic as they gathered around an autoroute toll booth.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the “yellow vests” who retreated to a bridge, throwing objects on the road, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
“The autoroute is now being cleaned to allow traffic to resume normally,” local authorities said.
France borders the Catalan region of Spain, and the French protesters were joined by dozens of Catalan pro-independence activists, also wearing yellow vests.
The separatists often block highways to protest against Madrid’s rejection of Catalonia’s independence referendum in October 2017.
Even though their goals are different, “this demonstration at the Boulou (toll booth) is symbolic, it shows the solidarity between the Spanish Catalans and the French,” said Marcel, a 49-year-old winegrower.
Roadblocks by protesters were also reported on autoroutes near the border with Italy and at a bridge in Strasbourg near the German border.
A driver died overnight when his car slammed into the back of a truck stopped at a roadblock set up by “yellow vest” protesters at an autoroute entrance in Perpignan on the Mediterranean coast, prosecutor Jean-Jacques Fagni told AFP.
There have now been 10 deaths related to the protests since they began on November 17.
In Paris, the scene of violent clashes during previous demonstrations, around 800 protesters joined rallies scattered around the city, police said at mid-day.
But the French capital’s iconic Champs-Elysees avenue was calm, with most shops except for some luxury boutiques open for business in the busy weekend before Christmas.
David Delbruyere, 48, was one of about 20 protesters near the Arch of Triumph, the fifth time he has come to the French capital for a demonstration as he remains “disgusted” with conditions in France.
Paris police said 65 people had been arrested, including a “yellow vest” leader, Eric Drouet.
Authorities were also stationed at the Palace of Versailles outside Paris which has been closed to visitors over fears of unrest.
A Facebook event organized by Drouet had listed thousands of people “interested” in joining the Versailles demonstration but only around 60 have shown up.
Further demonstrations of several hundred “yellow vests” were reported in Lyon, Marseille, Rouen and Bordeaux.
And in Angouleme in southwest France, a puppet effigy of President Emmanuel Macron was decapitated Friday night during a “yellow vest” protest, regional authorities said Saturday.
Meanwhile, police stepped in with tear gas to disperse around 80 protesters who had gathered Saturday outside Macron’s home in the Channel coast town of Touquet.
The number of protesters has however fallen significantly since last week, when Macron, a pro-business centrist, gave in to some of their demands.
Since the peak on November 17 with 282,000 demonstrators, the turnout has fallen to 166,000 on November 24, 136,000 on the first and eighth of December and 66,000 on December 15.
The movement characterised by the high-visibility yellow vests worn by the protesters originally started as a protest about planned fuel tax hikes, but has morphed into a widespread demonstration against Macron’s policies and top-down style of governing.
On Friday evening, the French Senate approved Macron’s measures to help the working poor and pensioners — just hours after they were adopted by the lower house of parliament — which aim to quell “yellow vest” anger and should come into force early in 2019.


Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

Updated 36 min 32 sec ago

Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

  • The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year
  • The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest

NEW DELHI: An alleged rape victim in northern India who was set on fire while heading to a court hearing in the case has died in a New Delhi hospital, officials said Saturday.
The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year, police said. The two were out of custody on bail.
Five men were arrested in connection with the burn attack, police said.
The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Shalab Kumar, head of the hospital’s burn unit.
Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, said that the case would be heard in a fast track court and that the “strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits.”
Priyanka Gandhi, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, faulted the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for failing to provide the woman with security, even after a similar case in the state in which a woman who accused a BJP lawmaker of rape was severely injured in a vehicle hit-and-run incident.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is known for its poor record regarding crimes against women. According to the most recent available official crime records, police registered more than 4,200 cases of rape in the state in 2017 — the most in India.
Government figures for 2017 also show that police registered 33,658 cases of rape in the country. But the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women in India don’t report cases to police due to fear.
Indian courts also seem to be struggling to deal with these cases. Data shows that more than 90% of cases of crimes against women are pending in city courts.
The burn victim’s death came on the same day police in the southern state of Telangana fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian after investigators took them to the crime scene. Their deaths drew both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.
The woman’s burned corpse was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India’s tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.
Police took the four suspects, who had not been charged with any crime, to the scene to help them locate the victim’s phone and other items, officials said. They said the men grabbed police firearms and began shooting, and were killed when police returned fire.
The Telangana High Court ordered authorities to preserve the bodies of the suspects and submit a video of the autopsies ahead of a court hearing set for Monday.
Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India’s Parliament, sent a fact-finding mission to the crime scene and mortuary where the suspects’ bodies were held on Saturday amid questions from opposition lawmakers about the circumstances of the suspects’ deaths.