French officials have appealed for peace on Saturday as violence continued to erupt in multiple areas of France amid the ‘yellow vest’ protests.

France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said massive gatherings were held in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille, with a total of around 50,000 demonstrators taking to streets.

On January 5, Saturday, around 3500 people took to the streets in Paris to protest; four times the number of demonstrators who had protested the previous week. At least 34 people were detained for questioning in the capital city.

Violence was reported in Montpellier and Troyes, where demonstrators tried to enter prefectures, and in Avignon, where some attempted to break into the Court of Justice. Violence was also reported in Beauvais, CNN reported.

Owing to the incidents of violence, French government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux said his Paris office had to be evacuated after demonstrators broke into the premises with construction machinery.

Officials from the government have called for peace in the country and appealed to protestors to avoid taking law and order in their own hands.

“While tensions and violence were noted in Paris and in some agglomerations, I gathered @Place_Beauvau the representatives of our security forces for a video conference with the district prefects.

I call everyone to responsibility and respect for the law,” Castaner tweeted.

More than 136,000 people gathered across the country, including 10,000 in Paris for the protest, officials estimated. “With fewer barricades, there was much more dispersion, so many more places were impacted by violence,” said Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire speaking about the damage inflicted in the city compared to the previous week of protests.

In November alone, over 1,700 people arrested and 135 people injured across France during the latest “yellow vest” protests. The people of France started demonstrating against the rise in living costs and also the embattled French President Emmanuel Macron.

Authorities have blamed the worst of the violence in recent weeks on anarchists, anti-capitalists and extreme groups on the fringes of the yellow vest movement.

Last month, Macron promised tax cuts for pensioners, wage rises for the poorest workers and the scrapping of planned fuel tax increases, at a cost to the Treasury of 10 billion euros ($11 billion).

All you need to know about the ‘Yellow Vest’

· In May 2018, an online petition to bring down the fuel prices was posted by Seine-et-Marne department. By mid-October the signatures on the petition reached 300,000 followed by mass demonstrations from November 17.

· The movement that was motivated by rising fuel prices and high cost of living and claims that a disproportionate burden of the government’s tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes, especially in rural and peri-urban areas.

· The protesters claim that the fuel tax is intended to finance tax cuts for big business, with some critics such as Dania Koleilat Khatib claiming that spending should be cut instead.

· The protest further ignited to oppose various policies of the government.

· According to the French press, driving the unrest is anger, among low-paid workers over a squeeze on household incomes, and a belief that Macron is deaf to citizens’.

· Despite the government’s initiatives, protests have been underway for three months now. There have also been repeated calls for Macron’s resignation during the protests.

· Thousands have been wounded in the demonstrations, while around 10 people have lost their lives.

· Over 4,000 people in relation to the protests.

· The protests come 18 months into Macron’s tenure.

· Perhaps Macron’s drive to reshape the economy has already forced him into concessions.

The protests have mainly involved marches and the blocking of roads and fuel depots. Some of the protests developed into major riots, described as the most violent since those of May 1968.

President Emmanuel Macron referring to the ‘yellow vest’protest, in his New Year speech said, “We can’t work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending.”

He acknowledged anger against injustice but said hateful speech would not be tolerated. Macron said France “wants to build a better future” while imploring people to respect each other, CNN reported.

In December, Macron pledged to increase the minimum wage and get rid of new pension taxes, a move that didn’t appease the anger of some of the protesters, CNN reported.

Why is it called ‘Yellow Vest’ protest?

‘Gilets jaunes’ or ‘Yellow vests’ were chosen as a symbol as per the 2008 law, which required all French motorists to have high-visibility vests in their vehicles when driving. As a result, reflective vests had become widely available, inexpensive, and recognisable.

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