Shouts of “dictatorship” were heard as one of the leaders of France’s anti-government Yellow Vest movement was arrested in Paris late on Wednesday, after authorities charged him with organizing and leading an unauthorized protest.
Eric Drouet was detained by police as some of the movement’s supporters gathered in the capital’s Place de la Concorde, near the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument. People left candles in remembrance of the movement’s wounded in clashes with police.
Drouet was detained while reportedly en-route to the memorial. Footage of the arrest shows several French riot police escort him away from the crowds while supporters chant his name while he is being led away.
After that, several other protesters were grabbed from the crowd and led away by police while remaining Yellow Vests sang the national anthem.
Tweeting his support for the man, left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon called the arrest an “abuse of power,” and the target of political policing.
“Enough of violence, condemnation and arrests against the #YellowVests. Free Eric Drouet. Make peace with the leaders of the people,” he added.
Aside from charges over the unauthrozed rally, the activist will also stand trial in June for carrying a “prohibited category D weapon [includes pepper spray, blank guns]”
So-called because of the high-visibility jackets they wear, the Yellow Vest protesters sprung into action in November. They initially rallied against a proposed hike in fuel prices by the government of Emmanuel Macron.
The planned increase was later dropped, yet people continue to demonstrate against a decline in living standards and growing inequality. As a result, the movement has morphed to voice wider discontent against Macron’s pro-business agenda, which protesters claim favor the country’s rich.
Actions across the country have frequently seen violent clashes with police, with some demonstrators even attempting to storm Macron’s Mediterranean retreat last month.
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