Violence broke out between yellow-vest protesters and French authorities on April 20, marking the 23rd consecutive Saturday of the group’s demonstrations.
The yellow-vest protests first began in November 2018 when French citizens claimed fuel prices and living rates were too high. The demonstrations have been a weekly occurrence since, always taking place on Saturdays.
When people began pledging millions of dollars to the rebuilding of the Notre-Dame Cathedral after a fire on April 15, political unrest rose among French citizens. During the Saturday protests, one sign read, “Victor Hugo thanks all the generous donors ready to save Notre-Dame and proposes that they do the same thing with Les Miserables.”
According to Reuters, this was not the only sign that paid tribute to Hugo’s Les Miserables. More signs read, “Everything for Notre-Dame, nothing for the miserables,” or “Millions for Notre-Dame, what about for us, the poor?”
Yellow-vest protesters acknowledge the massive loss from the Notre-Dame fire, but they said they want to make sure the public knows that Notre-Dame is not France’s only problem.
“I think what happened at Notre-Dame is a great tragedy, but humans should be more important than stones,” protester Jose Fraile told TIME. “And if humans had a little bit more money, they too could help finance the reconstruction work at Notre-Dame. I find this disgusting.”
According to TIME, a 200-person group—separate from the main yellow-vest demonstrations—were blocked by riot police when they attempted to march to the president’s Elysee Palace. Another group attempted to march directly to Notre-Dame but was stopped by a large security perimeter set up by authorities. Approximately, 137 people were detained or arrested by Paris police.
There were 31,100 protesters throughout the country, of which 5,000 were in Paris, according to Le Monde. Reuters reported there were approximately 60,000 on-duty police officers in France. Paris authorities also closed a large portion of the city’s metro system in order to contain the protests.
Demonstrators in black hoods allegedly threw rocks at police and set scooters and trash cans on fire, according to Reuters. Police responded to protesters with tear gas and stun guns. em
Macron made a formal speech on April 25 addressing the yellow-vest demonstrations were based on “fair demands.”
“I’ve touched more clearly on the density of lives,” Macron said. “I heard the anger. I felt it in my flesh.”
Despite Macron’s speech, yellow-vest protests continued for the 24th consecutive weekend on April 27. Several groups have claimed they are preparing for a major protest on May 1.