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1 Year Of 'Yellow Vest' Protests In France


We're going to head to Paris now, where the yellow vest movement is marking the anniversary of the birth of this protest movement against President Emmanuel Macron and his government. The protests consumed France over much of the past year before petering out just before summer. But this weekend, protesters are back on the streets, as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: It was supposed to be an anniversary celebration.


BEARDSLEY: But before the march even started, roving bands of hooded and masked young men began setting fire to cars, smashing shop windows and sparring with riot police, who responded with volleys of tear gas. Paris' Place d'Italie had become an urban battle scene by 3 p.m., when the head of Paris police, Didier Lallement, shut the march down.

DIDIER LALLEMENT: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "There were people who did not come out to defend a cause but to destroy," he said. "I saw systematic attacks against police and firefighters who were kept from putting out blazes."

ANGIE SPIRIT: Happy birthday today (laughter).

OLIVIER ENON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Yellow vesters Angie Spirit and Olivier Enon say they came to celebrate the movement's anniversary peacefully but were tear gassed by police as soon as they arrived. The two restaurant workers say they can't make ends meet and haven't seen any of the billions of euros Macron earmarked to improve the plight of the mostly white working poor who call themselves yellow vests. A recent poll shows 2 out of 3 French people still support their movement, like musician Gregoire Garrigues.

GREGOIRE GARRIGUES: The police are really against them. They can't move. They have to express themselves.

BEARDSLEY: But they already did all last year.

GARRIGUES: No, not really because the government, Macron - he doesn't want to hear anything from them.

BEARDSLEY: Macron claims he learned a lesson in humility from the yellow vests and is proceeding much more carefully with his reform of the pension system this year. But the government's biggest fear is that the yellow vests will return to the streets.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.