As the violent “yellow vest” protests went into their fifth week, there was a brief moment when friendship triumphed over anger. On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Paris. In many cases, they clashed violently with police, who were armed with flash ball guns. But in one case, a police officer spotted a protester he knew and greeted her with a kiss. You can watch that here:
The officer, in the middle of herding protesters along, suddenly points into the crowd and smiles. “I’m doing well, and you?” he calls out. He laughs and shrugs, gesturing at his riot gear. A woman comes over and gives him a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. You can hear the sound of flash balls firing as she melts back into the crowd.
That friendly greeting was a rare show of warmth in a city which appears increasingly divided. Protesters in Paris have been demonstrating for five weeks in a row against President Macron’s economic policies. The “gilets jaunes,” or “yellow vests,” made headlines around the world with their demonstrations, which were often violent and destructive. Protesters have set fire to cars, smashed store windows, and defaced monuments in the center of Paris. Police have responded with water cannons and tear gas.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Paris, wearing the yellow safety vests that have turned into a symbol of the movement. The police were ready for them and were dressed in full riot gear. Mounted police and police in armored cars searched protesters for weapons, and surrounded them, keeping them away from side streets. The police were armed with flash ball guns. Reports from the scene said that there were three police officers for every protester; reports also said that the police were trying to keep journalists away and that they were discouraging journalists from filming the scene.
In many cases, protesters and police scuffled and clashed dramatically. Reports say that at least six protesters have died since the protests began six weeks ago. You can see more photos and video from Saturday’s protest here:
Here are the armored police vehicles on view in central Paris: