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Film stars back France´s ´yellow vests´ as protesters march

PARIS: Film stars Juliette Binoche and Emmanuelle Beart joined hundreds of people from the arts world in backing France´s “yellow vests” movement, as the latest anti-government marches took place Saturday.

Binoche and Beart joined more than 1,400 signatories to an open letter published in the left-leaning daily Liberation.

Entitled “Yellow Vests: we are not fooled!”, it denounced what it said were attempts to discredit the movement.

It also backed the demands of the protesters, which it said included calls for greater social and fiscal justice, and radical measures to tackle what they called an ecological emergency.

The open letter condemned what it said were the increasingly repressive measures taken against the movement, noting that international organisations such as United Nations and the European Union had already expressed their concern.

Binoche and Beart were among the most prominent signatories, which also included directors, scriptwriters and composers. Binoche won an Oscar for her role in “The English Patient” while Beart is perhaps best known internationally for her role in the first “Mission Impossible” film.

Official estimates suggested that turnout for Saturday´s marches was down, in the wake of the May Day rallies when yellow vest activists joined the traditional trade union march.

The interior ministry said 18,900 people demonstrated across France, 1,460 of them in Paris — well down on their count for the previous weekend, when they said 23,600 turned up across the country.

The yellow vest organisers, who regularly dismiss the accuracy of the official count, put the turnout across France on Saturday at 40,291.

The day´s marches were relatively calm, with only a handful of arrests and eight people detained in Paris.

In the southwest city of Bordeaux, where support for the movement has been strong, 61-year-old teaching assistant Jose acknowledged that the movement was running out of steam a little.

“That´s 25 weeks that we have put our life on hold for a bit to at least get back a minimum of dignity,” he said.

Police violence probe

At Charles de Gaulle airport, meanwhile, around 20 yellow vest protesters handed out leaflets objecting to government plans to privatise Aeroports de Paris (ADP), which runs the capital´s three airports.

Saturday´s protests come just days after Wednesday´s May Day protests, and the fallout over the violence was still being discussed.

The IGPN, which investigates allegations of police misconduct, is looking at three incidents caught on video that appear to show police violence against May Day protesters.

In one, an officer appears to push his truncheon inside the trousers of an arrested man. Another shows a helmeted officer hitting a protester, while a third shows another officer hurling a paving stone.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Friday that if anyone was at fault they would be punished.

But he is under pressure himself after acknowledging Friday that he had been wrong to call an incident at the Paris Pitie-Salpetriere hospital an “attack”.

Video footage and accounts from hospital staff and demonstrators suggest that protesters had been fleeing riot police.

And on Saturday, more than 30 people arrested inside the hospital grounds held a news conference to say that all they had done was “flee the ultra-violent police”.

Several placards at Saturday´s demonstrations denounced Castaner as a “liar”.

In the northwestern city of Metz, meanwhile, yellow vest protesters and ecologists joined forces in a march ahead of a meeting there of G7 environment ministers on Sunday and Monday.

Police said 3,000 people turned out for the march, while the organisers — an alliance of around 40 environmental and grass-roots groups — put the figure at between 4,500 and 5,000.

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