Tear gas in Paris, but fewer protesters and bigger demands

Tear gas in Paris, but fewer protesters and bigger demands
Demonstrators run away through tear gas in Lyon, central France, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living, sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron, were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani) (Source: Laurent Cipriani)

PARIS (AP) — A protest movement that has brought the French into the streets for five Saturdays in a row in a major challenge to President Emmanuel Macron lost momentum in its latest nationwide outcry, but the smaller crowds pushed fervently for one of their expanding demands, a citizen's referendum to help define policy.

The most resonant call Saturday was a leap from the demand for relief from fuel tax hikes that gave birth to the protest in mid-November by rank-and-file French wearing yellow safety vests to slow vehicles at the traffic circles that dot France's countryside.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced in a tweet the death of an eighth person since the start of the protests, implying it occurred at a traffic circle, some of which have been manned day and night by protesters.

"Traffic circles must be freed and the security of all must again become the rule," he said, in a new effort to tamp down a movement that appears to be losing momentum.

The government put 69,000 security forces into the streets and called for calm after the last two Saturdays of major violence, including vandalization of the outside and inside of the Arc de Triomphe, which cradles the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Riot police officers fire tear gas during scuffles on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Riot police officers fire tear gas during scuffles on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
People wearing their yellow vests demonstrate Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. The "yellow vest" movement, which takes its name from the fluorescent safety vests French motorists must all have in their vehicles, emerged in mid-November as a protest against fuel tax increases. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
People wearing their yellow vests demonstrate Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. The "yellow vest" movement, which takes its name from the fluorescent safety vests French motorists must all have in their vehicles, emerged in mid-November as a protest against fuel tax increases. (AP Photo/Claude Paris) (Source: Claude Paris)
People wearing their yellow vests demonstrate with a banner Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. The "yellow vest" movement, which takes its name from the fluorescent safety vests French motorists must all have in their vehicles, emerged in mid-November as a protest against fuel tax increases. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
People wearing their yellow vests demonstrate with a banner Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. The "yellow vest" movement, which takes its name from the fluorescent safety vests French motorists must all have in their vehicles, emerged in mid-November as a protest against fuel tax increases. (AP Photo/Claude Paris) (Source: Claude Paris)
People wearing their yellow vests demonstrate with a banner reading "France is not for sell" Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
People wearing their yellow vests demonstrate with a banner reading "France is not for sell" Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Claude Paris) (Source: Claude Paris)
People demonstrate Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. At least 21 people were detained beforehand. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
People demonstrate Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Marseille, southern France. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. At least 21 people were detained beforehand. (AP Photo/Claude Paris) (Source: Claude Paris)
People wearing their yellow vests, one referring to the 1789 French Revolution, gather on the port of Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
People wearing their yellow vests, one referring to the 1789 French Revolution, gather on the port of Marseille, southern France, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Claude Paris) (Source: Claude Paris)
Demonstrators wearing their yellow vests march near the Champs Elyses Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators wearing their yellow vests march near the Champs Elyses Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
Police officers stand guard on the empty Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. A strong police presence has deployed in Paris before planned demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after previous violent protests and rioting. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Police officers stand guard on the empty Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. A strong police presence has deployed in Paris before planned demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after previous violent protests and rioting. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators wearing yellow vests talk to police officers on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. A strong police presence has deployed in Paris before planned demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after previous violent protests and rioting. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators wearing yellow vests talk to police officers on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. A strong police presence has deployed in Paris before planned demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after previous violent protests and rioting. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators gather during a protest outside the Opera house, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Demonstrators gather during a protest outside the Opera house, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) (Source: Michel Euler)
Demonstrators listen to speeches during a protest outside the Opera house, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Demonstrators listen to speeches during a protest outside the Opera house, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) (Source: Michel Euler)
Mounted police officers take position during a protest at the Opera house, seen behind, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Mounted police officers take position during a protest at the Opera house, seen behind, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) (Source: Michel Euler)
Demonstrators face riot police officers during a protest near the Opera house, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Demonstrators face riot police officers during a protest near the Opera house, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) (Source: Michel Euler)
Demonstrators wearing yellow vests perform a human tower on the Champs-Elysees avenue Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators wearing yellow vests perform a human tower on the Champs-Elysees avenue Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
A French police officer secures the border with Spain as demonstrators wearing yellow vests blocked the highway near the French border during a protest Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in Biriatou, southwestern France. Police have deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent.(AP Photo/Bob Edme)
A French police officer secures the border with Spain as demonstrators wearing yellow vests blocked the highway near the French border during a protest Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in Biriatou, southwestern France. Police have deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent.(AP Photo/Bob Edme) (Source: Bob Edme)
French police officer walks the highway as demonstrators wearing yellow vests blocked the highway near the French border with Spain, during a protest Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Biriatou, southwestern France. Police have deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent.(AP Photo/Bob Edme)
French police officer walks the highway as demonstrators wearing yellow vests blocked the highway near the French border with Spain, during a protest Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Biriatou, southwestern France. Police have deployed in large numbers Saturday for the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations by the "yellow vest" protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests on previous weekends turned violent.(AP Photo/Bob Edme) (Source: Bob Edme)
Riot police officers fire tear gas during scuffles in Lyon, central France, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living, sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron, were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Riot police officers fire tear gas during scuffles in Lyon, central France, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living, sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron, were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani) (Source: Laurent Cipriani)
Riot police officers fire tear gas during scuffles in Lyon, central France, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living, sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron, were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Riot police officers fire tear gas during scuffles in Lyon, central France, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living, sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron, were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani) (Source: Laurent Cipriani)
A police water cannon sprays water on demonstrators Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed Saturday across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations and water cannons shot into the crowds on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
A police water cannon sprays water on demonstrators Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed Saturday across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations and water cannons shot into the crowds on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) (Source: Michel Euler)
A police water cannon sprays water on demonstrators Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed Saturday across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations and water cannons shot into the crowds on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
A police water cannon sprays water on demonstrators Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed Saturday across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations and water cannons shot into the crowds on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) (Source: Michel Euler)
Police forces secure the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living _ sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron _ were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Police forces secure the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living _ sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron _ were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
A demonstrator dressed like Santa Claus is sprayed with water from a police water cannon as demonstrators protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living _ sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron _ were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A demonstrator dressed like Santa Claus is sprayed with water from a police water cannon as demonstrators protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. The demonstrations against France's high cost of living _ sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron _ were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators sit in front of a police water cannon on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators sit in front of a police water cannon on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
A man makes his way through tear gas as demonstrators protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees Avenue after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations _ the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A man makes his way through tear gas as demonstrators protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees Avenue after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations _ the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators run away through tear gas during scuffles on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed Saturday across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees Avenue after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations _ the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators run away through tear gas during scuffles on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Tear gas billowed Saturday across the French capital's protest-scarred Champs-Elysees Avenue after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations _ the fifth straight weekend of protests by the country's "yellow vest" movement. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
A man makes his way through tear gas as demonstrators protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A man makes his way through tear gas as demonstrators protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators appear through tear gas during scuffles on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Demonstrators appear through tear gas during scuffles on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. Paris police say 85 people have been detained in Paris on the fifth straight weekend of protests by the "yellow vests" movement, where thousands of people converged in the French capital. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)
A demonstrator takes a video of riot police officers on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. The "yellow vest" demonstrations, sapped by cold weather, light rain and government concessions, were significantly smaller than previous rallies. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
A demonstrator takes a video of riot police officers on the Champs-Elysees avenue, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 in Paris. The "yellow vest" demonstrations, sapped by cold weather, light rain and government concessions, were significantly smaller than previous rallies. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu) (Source: Kamil Zihnioglu)

"Protesting is a right. So let's know how to exercise it," the French government tweeted.

Some 8,000 police, with 14 armored vehicles and water cannons, were out anew in Paris to guard against property destruction and looting that marred the two previous protests.

They fired rounds of tear gas into crowds on the famed Champs-Elysees, where chic shops and restaurants were boarded up, and at dusk turned water on protesters bundled against frigid weather to disperse them.

Police said 115 people were taken into custody in Paris, most for banding together to commit acts of violence. Seven people were slightly injured. Police in riot gear were seen tackling one protester and dragging him off the Champs-Elysees.

Police estimate Paris protesters numbered 3,000 maximum — less than half the number a week ago — and the sharp downturn in violence was reflected in demonstrations across the country.

But the smaller crowds were fervent — and more demanding, with signs carried high or scrawled on the backs of vests calling for a referendum system that would let citizens directly impose national policies.

Among the yellow vests on the Champs-Elysees was Francis Queruel, a 70-year-old retiree from the small town of Goussainville, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) southwest of Paris, who said he was angered by "the violence of money," whereby the rich thrive and the rest are squeezed.

"There are 9 million poor in France and people who work but have no money at the end of the month to eat," said Queruel. While he said he has a good pension at 3,600 euros a month, he complained it's not indexed to the cost of living. Above all, Queruel worries for his grown children and the French who can't make ends meet.

"When you're hungry, it's terrible," said Queruel. "People were silent for a long time and now it's the eruption of a volcano," he said.

Pricillia Ludosky, one of several figures credited with helping trigger the movement, spoke to hundreds of people filling the square at the Paris Opera house and denounced "colossal fiscal oppression ... while a small elite constantly escapes paying taxes."

Without any clear leadership, the yellow vest movement has attracted a wide range of disgruntled people across France's political spectrum, including political parties trying to win new backers.

On Monday, Macron, whose popularity is plummeting, offered a package of measures in a bid to placate protesters, including a 100-euro monthly increase to the minimum wage. However, he refused to reinstate a wealth tax he slashed at the start of his presidency, a move that enforced a perception that he is the "president of the rich."

Lionel Fraisse, 63, a retired worker for the state agency that runs Metros and suburban trains, said the measures were simply "to put the people to sleep."

Fraisse, who arrived from the Essonne region south of Paris with former colleagues, said what he wants most is for Macron "to validate his legitimacy" with a referendum.

Until then, "the movement must lose neither its vigor nor its legitimacy," he said.

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Elena Becatoros and Raphael Satter in Paris contributed to this report.

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For more coverage of France's yellow vest protest movement, go to: https://www.apnews.com/FranceProtests