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'I can still hear the sounds of sirens' - 1 NEWS reporter gives detailed recount of up-close experience with latest Paris protests

An expensive Mini Cooper burns on the side of an upmarket Parisian street next to a smouldering transit van.

A few metres away, tear gas is being lobbed into a crowd of yellow vests. It burns our lungs and eyes as watered-down whiffs reach us – it's apparently a stronger concoction than usual.

Then we see a military vehicle (resembling a tank but with wheels instead of tracks) drive up the picturesque boulevard towards the Arc de Triomphe. 

This is not Paris as I know it or as the brochures portray it.

Isn't it supposed to be the City of Love? Well it was anything but today.

A "yellow vest" protester tells me "the French are a revolutionary people – this is a revolution" - and it certainly feels like it.

Eight thousand 'yellow vest' demonstrators, upset at the cost of living and the president's reforms, took to Paris streets.

The yellow vest movement started in mid November in rural France with the working and middle class upset at the rising fuel tax – they blocked motorways and peacefully blockaded fuel depots.

But that was just the tip of the iceburg. It's now morphed into a protest about the wider dissatisfaction with the cost of living and low wages.

One protester told me today he runs out of money every month.  "I'm struggling," he says. Rent he says is higher for some of his friends than their monthly income. 

But it's not just that.

The ill feeling towards President Macron and his attempts to overhaul much of the French system is very clear. Not one person I spoke to today was complimentary, in fact the language used about him and his reforms was strong.

They call him the "President of the rich" and vow to protest until he resigns.  I get the feeling they mean it.

One man, determined not to share his name tells me, "we're going to put this President out, we want the government out as well, we are going to flip over the system.  It’s finished."

Most of the grassroots yellow-vesters don't condone the violence and authorities say the movement has been infiltrated by far left and far right ultra violent protesters and thugs.  But despite last weekend's violence, still two thirds of the country support the protests.

The French have a history of overturning policy by widescale protest action, but President Macron has long vowed that he would not "give in to the street". But this week he did, scrapping the controversial fuel tax.

It did little to quell the discontent and many are now wondering what he will concede this week.

He's stuck between a rock and a hard place.

While the vandalism and destruction in Paris today wasn't on the same scale as it was last weekend, that comes down to the police handling of the protesters more than a calmer feeling amongst the movement.  The feelings on the street are not abating.

The police today used new tactics.  They stopped people before they came into the city and arrested those carrying potential weapons like baseball bats and hammers. They were also more mobile and identified troublemakers then moved to remove them.

It was quite surreal watching this happen from the relative safety of a seventh storey balcony.  Teams of a dozen or more armed riot police would swarm on the “problem” and use whatever means necessary to remove them. 

And it wasn’t just in Paris. There were similar scenes in Bordeaux and on a lesser scale, in other parts of France. There were even protests in Belgium and the Netherlands.

As I write this, I can still hear the sounds of sirens race past my hotel, and there's the occasional waft of tear gas through the window.  The heat in the protest action has disappeared but there are still hard-core people who will continue into the night.

And then the clean up will begin.  The French are good at bouncing back, but just how many times will they have to?  

Joy Reid was on the ground as angry civilians protested against President Emmanuel Macron. Source: 1 NEWS


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