French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

1 / 4
Yellow Vest protesters hold signs reading “RIC (Citizens Initiated Referendum), as they gather on Denfert Rochereau Square in Paris on March 23, 2019, during an anti-government demonstration called by the ‘Yellow Vest’ (gilets jaunes) movement in Paris. (AFP)
2 / 4
Protesters march past the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral during an anti-government demonstration called by the "Yellow Vests" (Gilets jaunes) movement in Paris, on March 23, 2019. (AFP)
3 / 4
French riot police officers move in line close to Denfert Rochereau Square in Paris on March 23, 2019, during an anti-government demonstration called by the 'Yellow Vest' (gilets jaunes) movement. (AFP)
4 / 4
A Yellow Vest protester holds a sign reading "RIC (Citizens Initiated Referendum), during an anti-government demonstration called by the 'Yellow Vest' (gilets jaunes) movement in Paris, on March 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2019

French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

  • The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence
  • Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital

PARIS: Thousands of French yellow vest demonstrators were marching through Paris on Saturday as authorities enforced bans on protests in certain areas and displayed enhanced security measures to avoid a repeat of last week’s riots in the capital.
The crowd gathered peacefully Saturday at Denfert-Rochereau Square in southern Paris and then headed north. The protesters are expected to finish Saturday’s march in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Montmartre around its signature monument, the hilltop Sacre-Coeur Cathedral.
French authorities have banned protests from the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and the central neighborhoods of several other cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Rouen in western France.
The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence. Scores of shops were looted and ransacked last weekend, and some were set on fire by protesters. Fear of more violence certainly kept tourists away, and police shut down the Champs-Elysees subway stations as a precaution.
Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital.
In Nice, police dispersed a few hundred protesters who gathered on a central plaza. The city was placed under high security measures as Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to stay overnight on Sunday as part of his state visit to France.
The new Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, who took charge following the destruction wrought by last week’s protests, said specific police units have been created to react faster to any violence.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed in the capital on Saturday and two drones were helping to monitor the demonstrations. French authorities also deployed soldiers to protect sensitive sites, allowing police forces to focus on maintaining order during the protests.
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday dismissed criticism from opposition leaders regarding the involvement of the military, saying they are not taking over police duties.
“Those trying to scare people, or to scare themselves, are wrong,” he said in Brussels.
Christelle Camus, a yellow vest protester from a southern suburb of Paris, called using French soldiers to help ensure security “a great nonsense.”
“Since when do soldiers face a population? We are here in France. You would say that we are here in (North) Korea or in China. I never saw something like this,” she said.
Last week’s surge in violence came as support for the 4-month-old anti-government yellow vest movement has been dwindling, mostly as a reaction to the riots by some protesters.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favor businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers. Macron countered by dropping the fuel tax hike and holding months of discussions with the public on France’s stagnant wages, high taxes and high unemployment.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.


Homesick Marawi residents yearn to rebuild lives as Philippines rebuilds city

Updated 38 min 6 sec ago

Homesick Marawi residents yearn to rebuild lives as Philippines rebuilds city

  • Displaced group leader urges govt. to expedite reconstruction work as majority “remain in cramped, temporary shelters”

MANILA: Displaced residents in Marawi’s ground zero, the scene of a five-month battle between Philippines forces and members of Daesh-inspired militant groups, said they couldn’t wait until 2022 “to start rebuilding their lives,” and renewed their appeal for the government to allow them to return home.

Drieza Liningding, Moro Consensus Group chair, told Arab News on Tuesday: “If we follow the (government’s) timeline, that means we’ll have to wait until 2022 ... The people are now helpless. 

“It has been three years already. We don’t even have access to our homes because we are not allowed to enter the area,” he added.

The Marawi siege, launched by the pro-Daesh Maute group, began on May 23, 2017, and lasted until October that year. More than 1,000 militants, government troops and civilians were killed, while the once-bustling city was flattened, displacing more than 100,000 residents.

The government has repeatedly assured residents of rehabilitation efforts in the war-torn city, including the construction of a permanent shelter for displaced residents from 24 villages in the most affected areas (MAA), which is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

Liningding, however, pointed out that while they were “not questioning” the government’s promise to complete the reconstruction of the city before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, it was also a fact that a majority of Marawi residents “remain in cramped, squalid temporary shelters, while others were forced to stay with relatives or find a place elsewhere.”

Liningding reiterated the group’s demand for the government to speed up the process of their return, as well as provide compensation for the damage to their properties.

“The so-called ... Marawi Rise and Master Development Plan (is) incoherent and inappropriate for post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation because it focuses more on public infrastructure and government buildings that we lacked before the siege,” Liningding said.

“When you say rehabilitation or reconstruction, it should be restorative in nature for what used to be there, not to permanently bar the people from returning because of projects that are not actually needed,” he added, noting that the ongoing infrastructure projects impacted nearly 50 percent of houses in the MAA.

“What’s the use of barangay (village) complexes, parks, museums, cafeteria, guest houses, police stations and other projects for those who have lost them homes?” Liningding asked.

Duterte allotted 3.56 billion pesos ($73.38 million) for the reconstruction of Marawi earlier this year.

On Monday, in a televised address, he pledged to rebuild the city, despite the current hurdles.

“The money is there. Do not worry. We will continue to spend until such time that Marawi is rebuilt to its former glory,” he said.

Liningding, in response, said the president should not pass the blame to the displaced and helpless residents of Marawi‘s MAA.

“(Duterte) of all people should know that we have nothing to do with the delays and failures of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) in the rehabilitation of Marawi,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, TBFM’s chairman, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario, said that war-torn Marawi would rise again as a “modern and vibrant Islamic City,” citing the various infrastructure projects in the pipeline.

Del Rosario has repeatedly insisted that the TFBM, along with its 56 member-agencies, is on schedule for the completion of projects aimed at restoring Marawi to its former glory by December 2021.

Construction of key infrastructure projects inside Marawi’s MAA was in full-swing until July after authorities eased restrictions which were imposed due to the coronavirus disease pandemic.