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FRENCH authorities have announced measures to clamp down on the growing “gilets jaunes” anti-government protests after eight weeks of unrest across the country.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who compared the protesters to “football hooligans,” said new legislation would ban so-called troublemakers from demonstrations and ban the wearing of masks.
“Those who question our institutions will not have the last word,” he said, warning that 80,000 security forces were to be mobilised for the next demonstrations set to take place this weekend.
It followed clashes last weekend which saw protesters smash their way into a government compound with a construction vehicle causing those inside to flee.
Authorities have been accused of a heavy-handed response to the protests which began on November 17 over a planned environment tax which meant a rise in fuel prices.
While attracting support from National Rally president Marine Le Pen in the initial stages of the protests, French trade unions and leftists joined the demonstrations to help shift the movement away from the far right.
Named after the high-vis jackets French motorists are required by law to keep in their car, the gilets jaunes have inspired similar movements and protests across Europe.
They are demanding the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron whose hard-line response to the protest movement appears to have backfired with no sign of the demonstrations ending.
Concessions offered by Mr Macron, including pausing the unpopular fuel tax, have been rejected as anger grows over poverty and unemployment.
Last week saw the arrest of prominent gilets jaunes activist Eric Drouet, a truck driver from Paris, who was charged with “organising an undeclared demonstration.”
And former professional boxer Christophe Dettinger was arrested yesterday after video footage in which he appeared to be punching a police riot officer went viral.
At least six people have died and at least 1,400 have been injured during the unrest, with some hit by vehicles as they blocked roads.
Mr Phillipe told broadcaster TF1 that the French government plans to introduce measures which would restrict the ability to organise demonstrations.
He said there was backing for a “new law punishing those who do not respect the requirement to declare [protests], those who take part in unauthorised demonstrations and those who arrive at demonstrations wearing face masks.”
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