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Police surrounded Yellow Vest demonstrators who gathered in Paris’s Place de la Bastille on Thursday – a place symbolic of the July 14 national holiday – to protest against the government and the rising cost of living.
Police had not authorized a march, so organizers called for a “static rally” instead.
Despite this, a few hundred protesters around the monument in the center of the square and on the steps of the Opera Bastille were tightly controlled by police who watched and contained the protesters in the grueling afternoon sun.
Some 12,000 police officers were deployed in Paris on Thursday during the national holiday to “fight against crime and prevent disturbances to public order” according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.
In recent years, yellow vest protesters have tried to take to the Champs-Elysees to disrupt the military parade. In 2019, 170 people were arrested after violent clashes between police and protesters at the end of the parade.
This year, the Paris police headquarters banned demonstrations in certain areas of Paris between July 13 and 15, notably around the Champs-Elysées.
The movement of yellow vests, launched in November 2018 after a hike in diesel taxes, continues to mobilize French people frustrated by soaring inflation which is driving up the cost of living.
Organizers of Thursday’s protest said their aim was to pressure the government to lower taxes and freeze the prices of essential goods, including energy.
There are also political goals, including the longstanding demand for the institution of a RIC, or citizens’ initiative referendum, which would allow people to remove lawmakers who fail to deliver on their campaign promises.
There is also a focus on the healthcare system, with calls for pay rises for healthcare workers and the reopening of hospital wards that have been closed due to budget cuts.