‘Yellow Vest’ social movement drew more people on Saturday in the ninth consecutive weekend protests, as the government is seeking public consultations in a bid to end the unrest. More than 84,000 people turned out for the ninth round of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron since November, the interior ministry said, up from 50,000 the previous Saturday. The "yellow vest" movement, a nationwide protest against weak economic performance and stagnant income increase under President Emmanuel Macron, started as a campaign against the surge in fuel prices in November 2018.
Attendance had declined over the Christmas holiday break, and while Saturday's turnout was higher than the 66,000 protesters on December 15, it was still far below the nearly 300,000 when the rallies began two months ago.
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Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that "responsibility triumphed over the temptation of confrontation" in Paris, where 8,000 protesters marched "without serious incident", up from 3,500 last week.
He also hailed the 80,000 officers deployed nationwide, including 5,000 in the capital.
However, several journalists were assaulted at rallies in several cities, as well as a security officer accompanying LCI television reporters who were surrounded and beaten by marchers, some wearing yellow vests, in the northern city of Rouen.
Thousands of drivers wearing highly visible yellow vests had blocked roads across the country and staged street protests that had been transformed into social rebellion demanding Macron to step down.
“Working hard to regain his support, Macron will launch a three-month national debate on Jan. 15 to try to address the people's complaints which they have already expressed in "grievance books" opened up by mayors of 5,000 communes,” Xinhua reported.
The debate will focus on four themes - taxes, green energy, institutional reform, and citizenship. He has already unveiled a 10-billion-euro (USD 11.5 billion) financial relief package for low earners and axed the planned fuel tax hike.
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"This debate is a great opportunity for the country... I want a real debate. It is not a debate whose terms and outcome are known. It is a debate to which I wish that we all commit ourselves," Macron told reporters late on Friday.