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France

Polls suggest Yellow Vest protests are losing support and momentum

media Protesters wearing yellow vests take part in a demonstration in Paris, France 9 February, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

As demonstrators take to French city streets again Saturday, marking three months of "yellow vest" protests, there are signs that the effort is beginning to lose momentum. Public opinion polls show a dwindling support for the cause and turnout is lower.

The number of those attending the weekly rallies has dropped since the November 17th, 2018, protest where  287,000 turned out on the first Saturday of protest.

On February 9 - the 13th weekend of anti-government actions - 51,000 people took to the streets according to police, though protest organisers put the figure at 118,000.

An Elabe opinion poll published Wednesday said 56 percent of French people now wanted the protests to stop -- 11 points higher than a month ago.

And while 58 percent of people still backed or had sympathy for the protesters, that was five points lower than two weeks ago and nine points below the level in early January.

Two out of three people thought the recurring Saturday rallies were no longer in keeping with what "yellow vests" originally stood for.

What started as a protest against rising fuel taxes, has become opposition to President Emmanuel Macron's policies.

Violence has marred nearly every large-scale rally

Ex-boxer Christophe Dettinger who became a hero to some protesters after beating up police officers during a demonstration in January was convicted Wednesday and given a one-year prison term.

The interior ministry said 1,796 people have been sentenced for rioting or other acts of violence over the past three months, while 1,422 more are awaiting trial.

Speaking at a meeting with local mayors on Thursday, Macron said it was time for a "return to reason", adding that authorities would act with "greater firmness" against violent demonstrators.

It is not known how many people might turn out for protests this weekend as social media messaging has alternatively called for blocking the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris Saturday, or marching down the Champs-Elysees avenue on Sunday.

Others suggested Yellow Vests should return to their original tactics of massing at roundabouts nationwide and blocking traffic.

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