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French police use tear gas to break up yellow vest protest

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By Agence France-Presse

Scuffles broke out at the start of the weekly “yellow vest” protest in the French southwestern city of Toulouse Saturday, as police used tear gas to break up the march.

A Yellow Vest protester holds a heart-shaped sign reading "French President Emmanauel Macron I hate you with all my heart" in front of the Galeries Lafayette department store, September 28, 2019. (Zakaria Abdelkafi, AFP )

A Yellow Vest protester holds a heart-shaped sign reading “French President Emmanuel Macron I hate you with all my heart” in front of the Galeries Lafayette department store, September 28, 2019. (Zakaria Abdelkafi, AFP )

There were also minor clashes in some of the other protests around France.

The Toulouse march was over within minutes, as thick clouds of tear gas filled the main streets, breaking up the protest into smaller groups that spread through the city’s streets, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Some activists complained that the police had fired tear gas at peaceful protesters, but on some occasions, police were responding to missiles thrown at them by some demonstrators.

The authorities had again declared Toulouse’s main square in front of the city hall off-limits to demonstrators.

Toulouse is a stronghold of the yellow vest movement, named by some as its “national capital”, and has been the scene of clashes between police and protesters in previous weekends.

“The police treat us like cockroaches and ban us from protesting,” said Nathalie, a 60-year-old unemployed woman, as street medics treated her for a cut to her finger.

“But the more scared I am, the more I will come,” she added.

Odile Maurin, a regular at the Toulouse protests and president of the disabled rights association Handi-Social described the police action as “institutional ill-treatment”.

She went on trial Friday for insulting behavior and violence against police officer, accused of having used her wheelchair as a weapon at a previous protest.

– ‘Resistance is a duty’ –

The yellow vest movement regularly contests police estimates of their protests as gross underestimates.

There were brief scuffles in the northeastern city of Metz when several dozen protesters, mostly youths dressed in black, broke out of the main procession and tried to go down pedestrian streets.

They threw stones and three molotov cocktails at officers but did not cause any injuries, said police.

French President Emmanuel Macron swept to the presidency in 2017 with a pledge to get the country back on a solid financial footing.

But he was caught short by the yellow vest protests which accused him of ignoring the day-to-day struggles of many French.

The numbers have dropped far below the initial protest in November last year, which brought out more than 280,000 people across France.

But a dedicated group of activists maintains their Saturday protests in cities around France, arguing that Macron is still ignoring the needs of marginalized groups such as the working poor.

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