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France

10,000 march in Paris in "Red Scarves" counter protest to Yellow Vests

media Red Scarves demonstrate against "yellow vest violence" in Paris 27 January 2019 REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER

The Red Scarves counter movement has staged its first march in the streets of Paris, with more than 10,000 people marching on Sunday to speak out against the violence and disruption of the Yellow Vests, who a day earlier held their eleventh weekend of nationwide protests.

Accompanied by a handful of MPs from President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move (LRM) party, the throng marched behind a banner reading: "Stop the violence", as people chanted, "Yes to democracy, no to revolution".

Violent scenes of rioting and clashes between police and demonstrators angry with President Macron have been beamed across French and international media since the Saturday protest began on 17 November.

At least 2,000 protesters and police have been injured, but away from the rallies at least 10 people have been killed in unrest, mostly in vehicle accidents caused by Yellow Vest blockades across French roads.

Counter movements multiply

The Red Scarves were joined on their "Republican March" by other groups, such as the Blue Vests and the “Stop. That’s enough now” (Stop. Maintenant ça suffit) initiative who also deplore the destruction and violence of the past two months.

“We denounce the climate of insurrection caused by the Yellow Vests. We also reject the threats and constant verbal abuse [suffered by non-Yellow Vests],” they say in their joint manifesto.

Police estimated that 10,500 people turned out for the Paris march on Sunday. Official figures for Saturday's Yellow Vests: Act 11 march were 4,000 in the capital and 69,000 nationwide, down from 84,000 the previous two weekends.

‘Not the people’

“I decided to join the Red Scarves after seeing the Arc de Triomphe and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier vandalised on 1 December," spokesman Philippe Lhoste tells RFI. "People have become exasperated [with the disruption] over the past two months.

"We need to show the Yellow Vests that they don’t speak for all French people.
They are a voice for some and we respect. But they need to respect those of us who want to work and who are prevented from commuting and who are subjected to threats and violence."

Julien, from the southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region told Le Monde newspaper: "In today’s age, you cannot attack law enforcement with acid or paving stones and deface the Arc de Triomphe ... You can’t denounce people as “collaborators” because they do not want to sign a petition or honk in support at roadblocks. The Yellow Vests are not the people and we are going to Paris to show it."

‘Macronistes’ split

The Red Scarves movement began as a Facebook group with no political agenda, set up by John Christophe Werner in November, after the first Yellow Vest protests.

Werner told regional newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré he created the initiative because French “citizens are being penalised every day by the Yellow Vests’ methods”.

Spokesman Alex Brun confirmed to RFI: “The Red Scarves is an apolitical citizen movement.”

But while united in opposing its methods, like the Yellow Vests, the Red Scarves are also showing signs of division – and the presence of LRM MPs at Sunday's march will not help.

Laurent Soulié, a Red Scarves member and sympathiser of Emmanuel Macron's LRM party, has proclaimed himself spokesman of a breakaway group and earlier this month rallied supporters on Facebook to join a march in support of the President.

Members of Macron’s government were quick to welcome Soulié’s faction for backing the French Republic. However it drew the ire of not just the anti-Macron Yellow Vests, but also the majority of Red Scarves.

 

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