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'Yellow vest' protesters attempt to stop traffic in Portugal

LISBON (Reuters) - A few hundred “yellow vest” protesters demanding lower taxes and inspired by riots in Paris took to the streets across Portugal on Friday in an attempt to stop traffic.

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About 100 protesters scuffled with police at a central square in Lisbon, while in the northern city of Braga some access roads were blocked early in the day.

“The reason why I joined this protest today is because this really is the voice of the people,” said Joao Viana, 50.

“The movement is not aligned to any political party and we simply want to tell the government that we are tired of corruption, we are tired of taxes, we are tired of paying to sustain the political class.”

The Socialist government had put 20,000 police on alert, yet there were no serious interruptions to traffic at the major intersections targeted by the protesters in Lisbon.

Portugal has no real tradition of violent protests, unlike in France where the movement began.

The French “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) protesters - named after the high-visibility jackets French motorists must carry in their cars - launched their demonstration in mid-November to rally against fuel tax increases.

The movement has since evolved into a wider backlash against the economic reforms of French President Emmanuel Macron, and protests in Paris this month were marred by major outbreaks of violence and vandalism.

Some copycat protests have flared up in other countries such as Belgium.

Portugal’s minority government, which is backed by two far-left parties in parliament, has recently cut some taxes and raised the wages of civil servants in an effort to reverse austerity measures launched during Portugal’s 2010-14 debt crisis.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Writing by Axel Bugge; Editing by Toby Davis