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‘Yellow Vest’ Anniversary Brings Fires, Tear Gas and Dwindled Crowds

Entertainment‘Yellow Vest’ Anniversary Brings Fires, Tear Gas and Dwindled Crowds

PARIS — Clouds of tear gas covered a major square in southern Paris on Saturday as the police attempted to quell a “Yellow Vest” demonstration marking the movement’s anniversary.

Protesters, some masked, threw paving stones and set trash cans on fire, while dozens of other demonstrators, a few wearing the yellow road-emergency vests that became the movement’s uniform, milled about on the Place d’Italie at the capital’s southeastern edge.

But the mayhem was largely confined to a small area and could not hide the weak mobilization on Saturday, which numbered in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands seen at the movement’s inception in November 2018.

Then, nearly 300,000 turned out for what began as apparently spontaneous demonstrations against a proposed fuel tax rise but quickly broadened into a major social protest movement that rocked the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

By midafternoon on Saturday, the police had made 61 arrests in Paris, down sharply from the hundreds that were the norm throughout months of Saturday protests last fall and winter.

The police canceled a planned protest march through Paris because of the violence at the Place d’Italie, and they earlier closed off the Champs-Élysées, the central avenue that was a focus of previous demonstrations.

“All those who are there and who hide their faces will be systematically arrested,” the Paris prefect of police, Didier Lallement, said at a midafternoon news conference, referring to the Place d’Italie. “The rest of Paris is calm,” he added.

The protesters, many chanting, “We’re here even if Macron doesn’t want us to be!” and “Happy birthday!” also flooded the Porte de Champerret in the northwest of Paris, attempting to block the ring road around the capital before they were dispersed.

Public sympathy for the movement, a cry of protest over stagnating wages and declining living standards, was strong at first, but largely dissipated after weeks of violence tore up sections of Paris and some of the major provincial cities. Mr. Macron quashed the movement by deploying a three-pronged strategy: cash, the unbridled deployment of the police and dialogue.

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