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Economy

Curtain closes on Yellow Vests latest act as rural France musters

media A protester wearing a yellow vest holds a French flag during a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, December 15, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Groups of Yellow Vest demonstrators watched by thousands of police were present on the streets until late in the evening in cities around France However, President Emmanuel Macron’s concessions on Monday appear to have taken the steam out of movement – for now.

The package of tax and minimum wage measures for low-income workers, along with winter weather in the run up to Christmas brought calm to the country after more than a month of often violent clashes.

Yellow Vests satisfied?

France was also hit by a fresh deadly terror attack on Tuesday night when a gunman opened fire at a Christmas market in Strasbourg.

The attack left four dead and leading the government to urge people to stay at home to spare the stretched security forces.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Saturday that eight people had now died in incidents linked to the demonstrations, and called on protesters to halt their blockades across the country.

"Everyone's safety has to become the rule again," he said in a tweet.

"Dialogue now needs to unite all those who want to transform France."

Richard Ferrand, the head of the National Assembly, welcomed the "necessary" weakening of the rallies, adding, "there had been a massive response to their demands".

Protests at Opera

An estimated 66,000 people took to the streets across France, according to figures from the interior ministry early Saturday evening, half the level of a week ago.

But Macron's approval rating has also fallen: dropping to 23 percent according to a poll published by Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday, down two points from November. It marks a sharp decline from his 62 percent rating following his election in May last year.

There were 168 arrests by early evening, far down on the roughly 1,000 of last Saturday.

Tear gas was occasionally fired, but a fraction of the amount was used compared with the weekends of December 8 or December 1 when graffiti was daubed on the Arc de Triomphe in scenes that shocked France.

Minor clashes were reported in southwestern Bordeaux where teargas was used and projectiles thrown. It was a similar picture in Toulouse, Nantes, Besancon, Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Lyon.

Protesters snarled traffic on motorways in the south of the country and on the A16 near the port of Calais in the north.

Rural protests next?

However, the protest movement hasn’t gone away, particularly not in rural communs around France. In a collective letter form the town halls of small villages from across France, the Mayors have called for reforms that would make living in these small villages easier.

The letter is the result of a opened a 'book of grievances and proposals' that was opened by the Association of Rural Mayors of France that will be presented to Emmanuel Macron when it is finalized. For many, though, their rural communities are already dying and urgent action is needed.

President Emmanuel Macron's address on Monday, December 10

This follows the decision by Macron to abolish the local tax that was used by the communs to fund local projects. As of yet, no decision has been made as to how this tax will be replaced leading many town halls with major funding problems.

While the physical book of ‘grievances’ has been closed, members of the public can still express their concerns online.

Preparing for 5th Yellow Vests protest in Paris

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