Dispatch from Telesur
French President Emmanuel Macron successfully defuses a police-organized "Black Wednesday" protest, agreeing to gradually raise police officers' wages by an average of 120 euros (US$136) per month and up to 150 euros (US$170) for the most senior officers by the end of 2019.
French officials met with police trade union leaders Wednesday to work out a deal that will soothe the anger and discontent among law enforcement.
“This agreement … paves the way for improvement and modernization of work conditions and police officers’ incomes,” French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a statement.
The government also promised to address the issue of police 23 million unpaid hours of overtime, which according to France24 amounts to nearly 275 million euros.
On Tuesday, Police union leader Frederic Lagache warned the government: “Faced with this irresponsibility [of the government], we are forced to be irresponsible in our actions.”
As negotiations between three unions (Alliance, UNSA-Police, and Unity-SGP-FO) and the interior minister failed to reach an agreement Tuesday, activists called on the police to “slow down” and only to respond to emergencies.
The Alliance and Unity-SGP-FO unions called for a “black day for the police” Wednesday, warning Act I would be followed Act II and Act III, in a reference to yellow-vest protesters.
Police unions had denounced the new proposed budget, to be adopted Thursday, which will cut around US$70.8 million from the national police budget. Denis Jacob, a spokesperson for the Alternative Police union, said the police are already “at breaking point.” On Wednesday there were no announcements on the budget.
The threat of law enforcement joining the protesting population, made the French government decide to increase the wages of police officers by an average of 120 euros (approximately US$136) per month. This was done in order to contain the police and obstruct an alliance of protesting people and law enforcement.
The French government has faced five consecutive and massive protests organized by the self-defined "yellow vests." Nationwide demonstrations began in November against an increase in fuel taxes President Macron eventually halted. Since then many social sectors have joined the protests, which now tackle what many are calling "fiscal injustice."
At least 168 protesters have been arrested in Paris. The police have used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrations throughout France.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of French cities Saturday in the fifth weekend of nationwide demonstrations against Emmanuel Macron’s government, despite calls to hold off after a gun attack in Strasbourg earlier this week.
Police fired water cannon and tear gas in the afternoon to disperse groups of protesters in sporadic, brief clashes with riot police on the Champs-Elysees and adjacent streets.
The Interior Minister said around 69,000 police were active on Saturday with a reinforced presence in the cities of Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Saint-Etienne. According to authorities, the number was down compared to last Saturday. As of 5 p.m. local time, authorities counted 66,000 protesters throughout France. Last Saturday, official forces said 126,000 joined demonstrations.
Protester Loic Bollay, 44, said the protests were more subdued than in previous weeks but the movement would go on until the demonstrators’ grievances were addressed.
“Since the Strasbourg attack, it is calmer, but I think next Saturday and the following Saturdays...it will come back.”
The "yellow vest" movement started in mid-November with protests against fuel tax increases, but it quickly became a wider mobilization against Macron’s austerity policies and reforms that affect working-class people. Students, professionals, union workers, pensioners, and general citizens have joined the movement.
Macron, dubbed the "president of the rich," has faced several episodes of intense social protest since the beginning of his presidency in May 2017.
During the Yellow Vests' mobilization on Saturday, Dec. 8, at least 1,500 people were detained and 135 injured.
This Saturday, in Paris, a group of protesters gathered in the Opera square and knelt with their hands behind their heads in a reference to the over 140 students of Mantes la Jolie who were intimidated and humiliated by French police last week.
En la Plaza de Opera, gilets jaunes arrodillados y con las manos en la cabeza, referencia a los estudiantes de Mantes la Jolie.
En la Plaza Saint Lazare se están reuniendo estudiantes, trabajadores ferroviarios, comité Adama... pic.twitter.com/I69CgFHpGG
— Descifrando la Guerra (@descifraguerra) December 15, 2018
"At the Opera Square, Yellow Vests kneeling with their hands on their heads, making reference to the students of Mantes la Jolie.
At the Saint Lazare Square, students, railway workers, the Adama committee (formed after the murder of a Black youth) are meeting."
In Paris, where thousands marched in splintered groups, 168 had been arrested until 5 p.m., according to a Paris police official.
In a televised address to the nation Monday, Macron announced wage increases and tax cuts for pensioners in an attempt to end the movement but many said they would maintain pressure.
This Saturday, the Champs Elysees is again the epicenter of the Yellow Vests' call. All subway lines in the vicinity have been cut off and the bus lines diverted. Various monuments, museums, and Parisian shops have closed their doors.
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