France needs calm, order and return to normal after protests: Macron - International

France needs calm, order and return to normal after protests: Macron - International

"I think the yellow vests need to continue speaking out and the problem is that in the countryside", said Julie Verrier, a protester from Picardie in Normandy in northern France who had been participating in protests there for the past three weeks and had travelled to Paris for Saturday's demonstration.

About 8,000 police and 14 armoured vehicles were deployed in Paris for the demonstration, and streets of central Paris were honeycombed with checkpoints where officers in riot gear checked bags and coats for weapons and helmets. Approximately 90,000 government forces are being deployed around the country.

More than 20 police vans and a water cannon truck were parked nearby.

There had been 168 arrests by 6:00 pm (1700 GMT), far down on the roughly 1,000 of last Saturday.

As well cancelling fuel tax increases that were due to kick in next month, Macron said he would increase the minimum wage by 100 euros a month from January and reduce taxes for poorer pensioners, among other measures.

Numerous "yellow vest" figureheads, along with leaders of the far-left Unbowed France party, have urged protesters to turn out on Saturday to pressure the government into making further concessions. They are part of a growing global upsurge in struggles by workers a decade after the 2008 financial crash.

"The Yellow Vest movement is in its concluding phase", former President Francois Hollande told reporters, adding that the fact that Macron had given in to some of the protesters' demands showed that the movement was "useful", because it resulted in "significant advances" for part of the population. More than 10,000 people have already RSVP'd on Facebook to the "Acte 5: Macron Démission" march.

After having invested the Champs-Elysées, the "yellow vests" left the famous avenue to try to go elsewhere in Paris.

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An estimated 66,000 people took to the streets across France, according to figures from the interior ministry at 6:00 pm, 1700 GMT, half the level of a week ago.

"France needs calm, order and a return to normal", Mr Macron said, after a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels.

Protesters gather during a Yellow Vest demonstration on the Champs Elysees in Paris, France, Dec. 15, 2018.

But many protesters have expressed disappointment at the measures and are planning more protests across France on Saturday. The unions did not organize any serious strike action.

One activist told Reuters that spontaneous protests like those in France were now impossible in Egypt. High schools are still being shut down across the country by students, who have demonstrated outside their buildings against the government's pro-business education reforms. More than 700 officers are involved in the manhunt for the 29-year-old suspect, Cherif Chekatt, who had a long criminal record and had been flagged for extremism. The suspected attacker was killed by police in Strasbourg on Thursday evening, following a two-day manhunt.

Officials in the Vaucluse department said the driver was arrested and taken into custody after he tried to flee the scene near the southern city of Avignon.

"But there is also plenty of misinformation" promoted through social media, "which provides fuel for disaffection", the Times notes.

An attack on a Christmas market in Strasbourg on Tuesday had increased fears of a further terror attack.

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