Gilets jaunes: small French town braces for mass demonstration
Bourges closes museums and removes parking meters as as 80,000 police mobilise nationwide
Last modified on Fri 11 Jan 2019
More than 80,000 police officers are mobilising across France for the ninth weekend of gilets jaunes anti-government protests as Emmanuel Macron prepares to launch a three-month public debate process that he had hoped would channel protesters’ anger away from the streets.
Gilets jaunes demonstrators have continued to barricade roundabouts across France. The government said about 60% of speed cameras across France had been damaged or destroyed since the start of the protest movement in November. Officials said the speed cameras that do remain in use had shown more drivers breaking speed limits, presumably thinking they would not be caught.
Although the gilets jaunes protests – named after the yellow hi-vis jackets worn by demonstrators – began in November as a revolt against fuel tax, local politicians said fury over this summer’s move to cut speeds to 80km per hour (50mph) on many secondary roads had played an important roll in mobilising protests in the countryside.
“People are still complaining about it in the regions,” Christophe Jerretie, an MP for Macron’s La République En Marche party in Corrèze, said of the speed limits. Some protesters want the speed limit changes scrapped but the government believes the measure, which will be evaluated fully next year, has already saved hundreds of lives.
The nationwide “great national debate”, which the president suggested in December as a solution to gilets jaunes’ complaints that citizens do not have enough say in policy, will launch on Tuesday. But it would be an unprecedented exercise that has proved complex to organise.