February 14, 2019 / 3:04 PM / 6 months ago

Enough! French want an end to 'yellow vest' protests

PARIS (Reuters) - More than half of French people want the “yellow vests” to end their sometimes violent anti-government protests, with many believing demonstrators still marching through cities each weekend no longer reflect the group’s early demands.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters wearing yellow vests are seen behind a fire as they attend a demonstration of the "yellow vests" movement in Angers, France, January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

A survey by respected pollster Elabe published late on Wednesday showed 56 percent think the movement should call off the weekly protests, an increase of 11 points from a month earlier and the first time they have been a majority.

The protests erupted in November over the high cost of diesel and high living costs, and are named after the high-visibility jackets French motorists must carry in their car.

The unrest quickly morphed into a broader revolt against President Emmanuel Macron and inequality.

Much of the worst rioting, vandalism and looting has been blamed on anarchists as well as hard-left and extreme-right militants with no connection to the protest movement.

While a majority of people support the movement, two in every three believe those still protesting each weekend in Paris and other cities are not representative of its early ambitions.

The “yellow vests” have posed the greatest challenge to the authority of Macron, who has made costly tax concessions and last month launched a two-month national debate, promising policy change that address voter grievances.

On Thursday, the 41-year-old president met with rural mayors in the remote village of Gargilesse-Dampierre in central France.

One after the other, the mayors presented their grumbles: the dearth of doctors, shortage of money for technology, decline of public transport, and lack of power for local officials.

“I will try and respond to each of the points you have raised,” Macron said as he got to his feet, dressed as always in a sharp suit, crisp white shirt and dark tie. “I share your opinion, the country is tired. We must rise to the challenge.”

In recent debates, Macron has stood for more than six hours answering questions. Polls point to a rebound in the president’s battered popularity since he launched the debates and his aides talk of a new energy inside the Elysee Palace.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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