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France braces for 9th weekend of Yellow Vest protests

media For the 9th weekend of 'Yellow Vest' protests, some protesters have called a mass demonstration in the central city of Bourges (Photo: a Yellow Vest protester in Nemours, France, 9 January 2019)s REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Where will the yellow vest protesters focus their ninth weekly demonstration on Saturday?One faction has chosen Paris, another Bourges, a city of 68,000 people, located in the centre of France. The department’s prefect has banned any demonstration in the historical centre of the city, but has allowed marchers on its exterior boulevards.

The Angry France collective, one of the many yellow vest organisers, chose Bourges because it is central and allows easy access from different parts of France, to symbolise the unity of the movement.

The prefect of the Cher department, Catherine Ferrier, said she chose to ban gatherings in the city’s centre because “the anticipated size of this gathering, which was not declared to the prefecture… has nothing to do with previous peaceful marches that took place in the city of Bourges.”

As of Friday mid-day, a Facebook event set up for the Bourges demonstration showed nearly 2,800 people saying they were attending, and over 13,000 interested.

Ferrier said she met with four yellow vest members to draw up a path for a peaceful march that would avoid downtown.

Bourges on lockdown

The call to demonstrate in Bourges could be a decoy, to focus security forces there, as happened with the call to demonstrate in Versailles on 22 December.

But the city’s centre-right mayor, Pascal Blanc, is leaving nothing to chance. Downtown Bourges will be closed to traffic on Saturday, and Blanc ordered city hall to be closed, along with the city’s museums.

The city has also taken down all parking meters and secured construction sites, so that material cannot be taken apart and used as projectiles by protesters.

Other demonstrations are planned in all of France’s major cities, and demonstrators are also planning on blocking highways.

Authorities expect a stronger turnout that last week, and 80,000 police officers have been deployed, 5,000 in Paris.

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