France’s "yellow vest" anti-government protesters turned out yet again on Saturday – but Paris was spared a repeat of the violence as demonstrations were heavily toned down.
However, a fatal road accident, in which a car hit a truck at a roadblock erected by protesters in southern France, brought the death toll to 10 since the movement, which was sparked by planned fuel price hikes, began last month.
For the first time in weeks Saturday in central Paris no longer resembled a war zone. There were minor skirmishes between demonstrators and riot police on the Champs Elysées in the capital, during which security forces used tear gas and water cannon, but the famed avenue remained open for most of the day to Christmas shoppers and tourists.
Around 24,000 people took part in protests across the country, including around 2,000 in Paris, compared with 33,500 a week ago, according to figures from the interior ministry.
Protesters appeared disorganised, with scattered groups walking randomly across the capital. A few hundred protesters marched toward the Madeleine church near the Elysée palace, which houses the offices and home of Emmanuel Macron, the 40-year-old president the protestors blame for their many woes.
But they were stopped in a side street as some shop owners closed down early. Tempers frayed and police with batons fired tear gas to repel a few people trying to break through the officers’ line.
Later in the day dozens of protestors confronted riot police on the Champs Elysées.
The Versailles chateau outside Paris was closed to visitors for the day over fears of unrest but in the end only a few dozen protestors turned up,and were massively outnumbered by the 600 police officers deployed there.
Near the border between France and Spain hundreds of protesters disrupted traffic as they gathered around an motorway toll booth.
Police fired tear gas to disperse the "yellow vests" who retreated to a bridge, throwing objects on the road.
The French protesters were joined by dozens of Catalan pro-independence activists, also wearing yellow vests.
Even though their goals are different, "this demonstration at the Boulou (toll booth) is symbolic, it shows the solidarity between the Spanish Catalans and the French," said Marcel, a 49-year-old winegrower, said.
Roadblocks by protesters were also reported on motorways near the border with Italy and at a bridge in Strasbourg near the German border.
Further demonstrations of several hundred yellow vests were reported in Lyon, Marseille, Rouen and Bordeaux.
In the southwestern town of Angouleme, an effigy of Mr Macron was decapitated on Friday night during a yellow vest protest.
Meanwhile, police stepped in with tear gas to disperse around 80 protesters who had gathered Saturday outside the president’s holiday home in the Channel coast town of Le Touquet.
The number of protesters has however fallen significantly Mr Macron, a pro-business centrist, gave in to some of their demands.
The symbolic yellow vest has been taken up by protestors in several other countries.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters on Saturday took to the streets in Istanbul to demonstrate against the rising cost of living and crippling inflation in Turkey.
Surrounded by a heavy police presence, the protesters held banners with references to the "yellow vest" movement in France, which began as a demonstration against fuel price hikes but snowballed into anti-government protests.