French ‘yellow vests’ shut down top Paris department store

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Yellow vest demonstrators enjoy a lunch to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the national yellow vest movement, at a traffic circle in La Ciotat, southern France, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP)
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Members of the "yellow vest" (gilets jaunes) movement applaud during a rally in tribute to Chantal Mazet, one year after the death of the 63 year-old woman on a roundabout in Le Pont-de-Beauvoisin, near Chambery, central eastern France, on November 17, 2019. (AFP)
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A yellow vest demonstrator holds a flare during celebrations to mark the one-year anniversary of the national yellow vest movement, at a traffic circle in La Ciotat, southern France, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2019

French ‘yellow vests’ shut down top Paris department store

  • Fresh protests were held across France to mark the birth last year for the movement
  • Authorities said about 28,000 people marched across France on Saturday, including 4,700 in Paris

PARIS: French "yellow vest" demonstrators occupied a top Parisian department store on Sunday, a day after clashes in the capital on the first anniversary of the protest movement.
The glitzy Galeries Lafayette store in the Opera shopping district was evacuated after dozens of protesters chanting anti-capitalist and anti-government slogans took over the third floor.
"(President Emmanuel) Macron is destroying France and your rights, don't criticise us" We're here for you," one placard read.
The protesters were expelled shortly afterwards by security staff.
The store -- one of the top destinations in Paris for moneyed foreign tourists, which was targeted by the demonstrators as a "consumerist temple" -- said it would remain closed for the rest of the day.
The protest came on a second day of demonstrations to mark the anniversary of a leaderless revolt that badly rattled President Emmanuel Macron's centrist government.
Twenty people were arrested Sunday in Paris but in most places the protests were peaceful.
On Saturday, police in Paris had battled rioters for hours around the southeastern Place d'Italie square, where a yellow vest march was shut down by the authorities after turning violent.
Several cars were overturned or set alight, bus shelters were smashed and a monument to a World War II hero Marshal Alphonse Juin was defaced by demonstrators dressed in black, who wore masks to hide their faces.
Police checked thousands of demonstrators over the weekend. On Sunday, prosecutors said 169 were held in custody including eight minors.
Castaner claimed that there were "few demonstrators" among at the protesters in Paris, who he said were mainly "thugs, brutes who came to fight the security forces and prevent the emergency services from doing their work".
But leftist TV historian Mathilde Larrere wrote on Twitter that she and two friends were prevented from leaving the protest after the clashes began because of police crowd control tactics.
She accused the police of tactics "unworthy of a democratic state", citing "the repeated teargassing and (stun) grenades going off everywhere".
In rural France, by contrast, the mood of the anniversary was more festive. Many yellow vests returned to the traffic roundabouts they occupied last year when they began rebelling against Macron's economic policies.
But at the town of Le Pont-de-Beauvoisin in the southeast Savoie region, around 60 people paid tribute to a yellow vest protester who died a year ago. Chantal Mazet was knocked over by a car at a roundabout on the first day of the protests.
The interior ministry put the number of demonstrators on Saturday at 28,600 nationwide but the organisers said nearly 40,000 people had rallied -- a far cry from the estimated 282,000 who took part in the first big day of protests on November 17, 2018.
The yellow vests, who accuse Macron of ruling on behalf of the urban elite -- the spark for the protests was a series of fuel price hikes that squeezed car-dependent rural-dwellers -- are adamant that they have not gone away.
They are now looking to join forces with the trade union movement, which is planning a major transport strike over pension reforms starting on December 5.


UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

The Royal Navy has been deployed as recently as January 2019 in an attempt to reduce the number of refugees and migrants arriving to the UK via the English Channel. (Reuters)
Updated 10 August 2020

UK to deploy military to prevent migrant Channel crossings

  • French parliamentarian called the plans a “political measure” that would not help the situation.
  • Roughly 4,000 people have made the dangerous trip from France to the UK so far this year.

LONDON: The UK has announced it will use the military to prevent migrants entering the country from France via the English Channel, but the plans have drawn criticism from French politicians and rights groups in the UK.

More than 4,000 people have successfully made the crossing so far this year, and many of those have done so in small and overburdened boats.

Responding to the escalating number of people attempting the journey, the Home Office officially requested last week that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) assist the Border Force in its duties.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said her department was “working to make this route unviable” and announced on Sunday the appointment of a former Royal Marine to manage the government’s response to the crossings.

In response to Patel’s request, the MoD announced on Monday that it would send a Royal Air Force plane with spotters on board to assist the Border Force in its operations in the English Channel.

But the issue has caused tension between the UK and France.

The French National Assembly member for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont, slammed the decision to use the military to prevent crossings as a useless “political measure.”

He said: “What is the British navy going to do if it sees a small boat? Is it going to shoot the boat? Is it going to enter French waters? It’s a political measure to show some kind of muscle but technically speaking it won’t change anything.”

Paris has also requested that London provides £30 million to fund French efforts to prevent migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing from their side.

Patel’s decision to use the military to prevent Channel crossings has also drawn condemnation from human rights groups.

Bella Sankey, a barrister and director of Detention Action said: “The home secretary’s hysterical plea to the navy is as irresponsible as it is ironic. Pushbacks at sea are unlawful and would threaten human lives.

“No civilised country can even consider this, let alone a country with a tradition of offering sanctuary to those fleeing persecution,” she added.

Migration has long been a hot button issue in British politics, and this will not be the first time authorities have used the military to enforce migration policies.

In January 2019, the Royal Navy sent three ships to the Channel to prevent migrant crossings, saying at the time that the deployment would “help prevent migrants from making the dangerous journey.”