Eric Feferberg, AFP | Protesters take part in an anti-government demonstration called by the Yellow Vest movement, on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on March 2, 2019.
Demonstrations in France, sit-ins near the Eiffel Tower and a flash mob at Charles de Gaulle airport: the Yellow Vests are organizing a weekend of new types of protest for their Act 17 to try to combat falling numbers.
This comes before what protesters are calling the "Ultimatum" on March 16, to mark the end of President Emmanuel Macron’s three months of "Great National Debate".
After almost four months of weekly protests, the anti-government movement has been facing a slow decline for several Saturdays. For Act 16, 39,300 demonstrators were registered in France by the Interior Ministry, including 4,000 in Paris.
The numbers were down slightly from the previous Saturday, when 46,600 protesters took to the streets across France, including 5,800 in the capital. In general, the numbers have been steadily declining from the 282,000 peak at the start of the Yellow Vests protests last November. To counter this waning turnout, protestors have devised original new ways to make their dissent known.
“Decisive act: we will not move” is the name for the main event of the weekend in Paris. The protestors are holding a three-day sit-in on the Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower. Demonstrations are also planned in Lyon, Besançon, Strasbourg, Lille, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Avignon, Quimper or Le Puy-en-Velay.
As early as Friday evening, some 30 demonstrators tried to set up a few structures near the Eiffel Tower, but were quickly dislodged by the police, an AFP journalist noted.
“Without the announcement of real measures, we will stay on site all weekend and beyond if necessary,” says the event’s Facebook page, which has 1,400 participants registered on Facebook and 6,600 marked as “interested”.
The occupation of the Champ de Mars was largely relayed by prominent leaders of the movement. “The 8,9,10, big sit-in, big mobilisation,” Maxime Nicolle promised in a video on Thursday. “We’ll sleep on the spot.”
The Parisian sit-in must “set up our roundabouts in the heart of the capital, where we will be visible to everyone and get our message across”, explained another high-profile Yellow Vest member Priscillia Ludosky at a press conference last week.
Act 17 has also taken inspiration from International Women’s Day. On Saturday, the Yellow Vest women are calling for a demonstration in Paris, starting at 11:00am between the Champs-Élysées and Luxembourg Park. The aim is to “bring all mobilisations together”.
A “giant flashmob” at Terminal 1 of Paris’s Roissy airport has also been announced at midday to protest against Aéroports de Paris’s privatisation project.
For the Yellow Vests, the stated objective for March is to revive the spirit of the beginning of the movement.
Scheduled for March 16, Act 18 of the movement will take place the day after the official end of the Great National Debate and hopes to bring together “the whole of France in Paris” to issue an “ultimatum” to the government.