Posts Tagged ‘protests’

Protesters Across Sudan Continue To Call For Omar al-Bashir’s Ouster — “I cannot see my future here inside this country.”

January 5, 2019

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Sudan Friday in the latest wave of anti-government demonstrations that have taken place for more than two weeks.

Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators who gathered after noon prayers in the capital city of Khartoum, The Associated Press reports. Protesters demanded the upheaval of the country’s military regime, chanting “freedom, peace, justice” and carrying banners with the Arabic command for “leave.”

Similar protests filled streets across the country, from the Red Sea city of Port Sudan to Atbara, where the first demonstrations took place on Dec. 19.

Image result for Omar al-Bashir, photos

Omar al-Bashir

Sparked by rising prices after the government announced it would end bread subsidies, as NPR’s Eyder Peralta reports, the protests have become an outpouring of anger toward President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the country for nearly three decades.

“It’s not about economics,” a protester named Wael told NPR. “It’s about — They are not going to improve the country. I am 25 years old. I cannot see my future here inside this country.”

At least 19 demonstrators have died, according to a United Nations estimate from a week ago, a result of escalating violence by Sudan’s security forces. Amnesty International reported a higher estimate of at least 37 people shot and killed. U.N. officials raised concerns about arbitrary arrests and called for an investigation into the violence.

What prompted the protests in Sudan?

A wave of unrest has rocked Sudan since last week after newly implemented price hikes [AP Photo]

Bread prices have skyrocketed along with inflation, and shelves are bare, as Peralta reports. Economic insecurity has plagued Sudan since the oil-producing southern third of the country seceded in 2011, becoming South Sudan. Meanwhile, perceived mismanagement and corruption in the military government have raised tensions.

In this Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018 handout photo provided by a Sudanese activist, people chant slogans and attack a national security vehicle during a protest, in Kordofan, Sudan. (AP)

“Life is hard is what he’s saying,” said Peralta, of the young Sudanese man. “But he feels like the government does have the resources and they’re just misusing it. They’re looking out for themselves, he says, so President Omar al-Bashir has to go.”

Protesters in previous days have chanted what translates to, “The people demand the fall of the regime,” in echoes of protests that toppled governments across the Middle East and North Africa during the Arab Spring.

Anti-government protesters faced a crackdown by government forces in Sudan [File: Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Anti-government protesters faced a crackdown by government forces in Sudan [File: Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Sudanese people also took to the in 2011 streets to protest rising prices and political repression, and they were met with a sharp crackdown by Bashir. Sparks of unrest in 2013 followed a similar pattern.

“Analysts I’ve spoken to say this is a bit different,” Peralta says. “There [are] a lot more people on the streets, and this seems like an emboldened protest movement. Across the country, we’ve seen reports that protesters have attacked government buildings.”

So-called “bread protests” have broken out sporadically for the past few years in Sudan, including last year, when the government similarly announced it would eliminate bread subsidies. The latest protests have primarily demanded the resignation of Bashir, rather than the renewal of subsidies. But anti-government sentiments and food riots have gone hand-in-hand throughout recent history in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 1977, thousands of Egyptians rose up in the country’s “bread riots” that left dozens dead. Crowds of students gathered around the Egyptian Parliament, chanting “Sayed Marei, millionaire” in reference to the wealth of the Parliament’s speaker, as The Washington Post reported at the time.

In Jordan, protests broke out over food prices in 1989 and again in 1996, when protesters set fire to government buildings and called for the removal of the prime minister.

In response to Sudanese protests, President Bashir has promised economic measures that include continued subsidies on basic food items and an increase in wages, but he has not offered details, AP reports. He has also blamed the protests on agents and infiltrators looking to exploit the country’s economic hardships.

Bashir has governed Sudan since a military coup in 1989 toppled the country’s last freely elected leader. The International Criminal Court indicted Bashir in 2010 for genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/04/682420838/protesters-across-sudan-continue-to-call-for-presidents-ouster

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Sudan: Anti-Government Riots Continue, Opposition Leaders Arrested

December 29, 2018

Police broke up protests held after Friday prayers, as opposition called for more demonstrations.

Thousands rallied in the capital Khartoum and other cities for the 10th day on Friday [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters/File]
Thousands rallied in the capital Khartoum and other cities for the 10th day on Friday [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters/File]

Sudanese security forces have arrested a top opposition leader following a crackdown on new anti-government demonstrations held in several cities on Friday.

The protests were the latest in a wave of demonstrations that began across much of Sudan on December 19 – first against a rise in prices but later against the government of President Omar al-Bashir, in power since a 1989 military coup.

Image result for Omar al-Bashir, pictures

The demonstrations coincide with worsening economic woes that saw a currency devaluation, fuel shortages and a steep rise in the price of bread, a main fare for most Sudanese.

The opposition Sudanese Congress Party said that a few hours after protests began in Omdurman on the west bank of the Nile on Friday, its chief, Omar el-Digeir, was arrested by security forces.

In this Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018 handout photo provided by a Sudanese activist, people chant slogans and attack a national security vehicle during a protest, in Kordofan, Sudan. (AP)

“He has been taken to an unknown location,” the party said in a statement.

Sudan protests: How did we get here?

Abdelwahab El-Affendi
by Abdelwahab El-Affendi

The Sudanese Writers’ Association said that well-known poet, Mohamed Taha, had also been arrested on Tuesday after he participated in a protest in Khartoum, the capital.

“We don’t know his whereabouts,” the association said.

The Sudanese journalists’ network said that two scribes were also detained.

As many as 19 people have been killed so far in the crackdown on protesters, the government said, but Amnesty International put the death toll at 37 since December 19.

Image result for Omar el-Digeir, photos

The United Nations on Friday called on the authorities in Sudan to investigate the deaths.

Police on Friday fired tear gas at hundreds of worshippers who staged demonstrations in the railway city of Atbara north of Khartoum, Obeid in the western North Kordofan province, and Senar and Wad Madani south of the capital.

Photographs posted by activists on social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising from some neighbourhoods in Khartoum as protesters burned rubbish and tyres.

In Omdurman, crowds of worshippers chanted “Freedom, Peace, Justice” as they poured out of a mosque belonging to main opposition National Umma Party, a witness said.

But they were quickly confronted by anti-riot police, the witness added.

READ MORE

Doctors’ strike continues in Sudan as protests enter eighth day

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the demonstrations against the price rise are morphing into a national movement against the government.

“It is not only these protests that people have been carrying out to try to voice their demands, some of them have also been on strike, doctors have announced that they are going to go on a strike until the government steps down.

“Many journalists are also marching in solidarity of those who were harassed and arrested while covering the protests, they also said they will go on a national strike against the government,” Hiba said.

A group of opposition parties met late on Thursday and agreed to “push for more protests” in the coming days, the Sudanese Communist Party said in a statement.

It is not the first time Bashir has faced protests against his rule. There were demonstrations in January over the same issues, with police using tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in Khartoum. Similar protests were held in Sudan in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.

The oil-rich country’s economy was badly affected when it split with South Sudan in 2011 and the government is also battling several rebel groups.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/sudan-opposition-leader-arrested-hours-protests-181229054119888.html

Anti-corruption demonstration in Beirut stirs Lebanon

December 24, 2018

Hundreds of Lebanese took to the streets Sunday in Beirut to protest rampant corruption and poor living conditions, as anger mounts over political deadlock that has left the country without a government since May.

People marched to the prime minister’s office in central Beirut to demonstrate against Lebanon’s fractious political class, widespread graft and failing public services.

Some protesters sported the iconic yellow vests worn by anti-government protesters in France, adorned with a cedar tree — Lebanon’s national symbol.

“There is corruption and theft of state funds,” 43-year-old Hana told AFP.

“We are governed by a political class of corrupt thieves who rule with sectarian fanaticism,” she said.

A Lebanese protester wears a yellow vest, inspired by France's Gilet Jaunes, during an anti-corruption demonstration in Beirut on December 23, 2018

A Lebanese protester wears a yellow vest, inspired by France’s Gilet Jaunes, during an anti-corruption demonstration in Beirut on December 23, 2018 A Lebanese protester wears a yellow vest, inspired by France’s Gilet Jaunes, during an anti-corruption demonstration in Beirut on December 23, 2018 AA/AFP

Parliamentary polls in May gave Saad Hariri a new term as prime minister, but seven months on, debate still drags on over ministerial portfolios.

Demonstrators demanded what they called their “most basic rights”, including a reintroduction of housing loans stalled for nearly a year and more access to healthcare, water and electricity.

They were met by security forces who erected a cordon in the city centre.

Dozens also demonstrated in the northern city of Tripoli and in Nabatiyeh in the south.

The protests came after hundreds took part in demonstrations led by Lebanon’s Communist Party last Sunday.

Lebanon’s economy is on the brink of collapse and France warned this month that the country could soon miss out on a much-needed aid programme agreed in Paris earlier this year if the political deadlock continues.

AFP

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‘Yellow Vest’ rally against delay in Lebanese government formation

December 24, 2018

The Lebanese capital, Beirut, witnessed angry protests in response to the general situation in the country and amid a further delay in the formation of a new Cabinet.

About 3,000 demonstrators responded to a call on social media and gathered in Martyrs’ Square, carrying banners bearing their grievances and criticizing the country’s leaders. They chanted slogans demanding social freedom and calling for the overthrow of the regime.

An Internal Security Forces (ISF) officer told Arab News: “Security Forces knew about the protest through social media and took all the necessary measures,” he added, noting that “none of the demonstrators had permission to demonstrate from the Ministry of Interior.”

Thousands of protesters gathered in Martyrs’ Square. (AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi)

The protesters had various objectives. Some wore yellow vests, some hid their faces, and others even brought their children or dogs along. Many of them had their own tale of personal suffering.

“I am unemployed, I do not have any kind of health insurance and taxes are imposed on everything,” said Hassan Khamis, 20 years old. “I came here so that my voice can be heard. I am from the southern suburbs of Beirut, but I do not follow any of its political parties.”

Cinderella Abou Chakra, who wore a yellow vest to demonstrate against corruption, said that she did so not to imitate French protesters, but to show that they too suffer from high taxes and low salaries.

“I am a retired employee and my husband was fired from his job because his employers could not afford to pay him the minimum wage anymore. I am part of the civil society and I hope that this non-sectarian protest will bring change and accountability.”

Activists from the political party Sabaa also took part in the demonstrations.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Martyrs’ Square. (AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi)

“They are bringing back the same faces to the government in a different format, while each of them is taking their share of the benefits,” said Ali Hassan, a Lebanese army veteran.

“The solution lies in the formation of a technocratic government not related to any of the political parties. It should be considered a national rescue government and not a national unity government.”

A member of a group of masked young men told Arab News that they were from the southern city of Tyre.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Martyrs’ Square. (AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi)

They had come together through a Whatsapp group chat to stand against corruption and to express their frustration with the politicians.

“They are not smarter than us. We are aware of what they are doing. They want to treat us like herds of sheep of different colors,” he said.

Participants raised the Lebanese flag and sang the national anthem. Some also held the flag of the Nejmeh football club to reaffirm that “they are participating as civilians and are not affiliated with any political party.”

Protesters then moved from Martyrs’ Square to the nearby Riad Al-Solh Square, close to the Lebanese Parliament and the Grand Serail, the seat of the government.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Martyrs’ Square. (AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi)

They held banners that read “We want a government now” and “Approve the law to recover stolen funds.”

Among the protesters were three Muslim clerics who are social media activists representing the Sunnis and the Shiites.

“We are participating to say that the situation has become unbearable. Hunger and economic crises are looming. Politicians must recognize the extent of people’s dissatisfaction,” said Sheikh Mohammed Ali Al-Hajj Al-Alami.

Sheikh Waleed Alama noted that: “Some people in Lebanon sold their minds to the political parties. We are here today to make heard the voices of those holding on to coexistence.”

Malak, a 39-year-old social media influencer, said: “I have been unemployed for three years. I am one of the people who called for the protests because the situation can no longer be tolerated. What the politicians are doing is very provocative. Our government does not care about us, it does not listen to the suffering of its people.”

The demonstrators tried to approach the metal barriers set in front of the government’s headquarters, while some threw water bottles at the security forces.

Later, they divided into smaller groups and closed some roads in Beirut such as Hamra Street, one of the major thoroughfares in the city, setting garbage bins on fire.

The Lebanese Army moved in to reopen the roads, and asked the protesters not to damage public and private properties and to preserve the peaceful nature of the demonstrations.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1424831/middle-east

‘Yellow vests’ hit French streets in fifth Saturday of protests

December 15, 2018

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of French cities on Saturday in the fifth weekend of nationwide demonstrations against Emmanuel Macron’s government, despite calls to hold off after a shooting in Strasbourg earlier this week.

The Interior Minister said around 69,000 police officers were active on Saturday with a reinforced presence in the cities of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne. In the French capital, police were out in force to contain possible outbursts of violence. But several major stores, such as the Galeries Lafayette, were open to welcome Christmas shoppers.

Christian Hartmann, Reuters | Yellow vests gather in front of Paris’ Opéra on December 15, 2018.

On the Champs-Elysees, a handful of topless activists from the feminist protest group Femen faced security forces a few meters away from the Elysee Palace, the president’s residence.

The protests began on November 17 over fuel tax increases, but snowballed into a revolt over living standards as well as Macron’s perceived indifference to the problems of ordinary citizens.

France “needs calm”

On Friday, President Macron called for a return to calm in France after nearly a month of protests by the so-called ‘yellow vest’ movement against his government’s policies. The demonstrations have hit growth and caused widespread disruption.

“France needs calm, order and a return to normal,” Macron said, after a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels.

Successive weekends of protests in Paris have lead to vandalism and violent clashes with security forces.

In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Macron scrapped a fuel tax increase slated for January, a core demand of the protesters, who mainly live in rural areas and smaller towns and rely heavily on their cars.

Macron also announced a hike in the minium wage, tax relief on overtime work and a rollback on taxes for many pensioners.

Watch Macron’s highly anticipated address

While some of the movement’s representatives have said they are open to halting the protests to negotiate with the government, others have said Macron’s concessions are not enough.

Strain on security services

The government, as well as several unions and opposition politicians also called on protesters to stay off the streets on Saturday, after four people were killed in a gun attack at a Christmas market in the historic city of Strasbourg.

>> Strasbourg shooting: tourists and locals among the victims

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux called on the anti-government protesters to be “reasonable”, citing the strain on security forces after the attack in on Tuesday evening.

“It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again,” he added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Paris Ready For New Yellow Vest Protests

December 15, 2018

Shops along the iconic Champs-Elysees board up windows after last week’s demonstrations included extensive looting and vandalism; 8,000 police officers deployed in French capital

French riot police take position in front of "yellow vest" protesters on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, on December 15, 2018. (Valery Hache/AFP)

French riot police take position in front of “yellow vest” protesters on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, on December 15, 2018. (Valery Hache/AFP)

PARIS (AP) — A strong police presence deployed in Paris on Saturday for planned demonstrations by the “yellow vest” protesters, with authorities repeating calls for calm after protests in previous weekends turned violent.

Security forces in riot gear were positioned around central train stations and along the famed Champs-Elysees boulevard, where shops were closed and their windows boarded up in anticipation of the protests. Authorities have said about 8,000 police and 14 armored vehicles were being deployed in the French capital.

Last weekend, groups of demonstrators smashed and looted stores, clashing with police and setting up burning barricades in the streets.

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. It soon morphed into an expression of rage about the high cost of living in France and a sense that President Emanuel Macron’s government is detached from the everyday struggles of workers.

There was a strong police presence Saturday outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags. More than 20 police vans and a water cannon truck idled nearby.

A French gendarme conducts searches on ‘yellow vest’ protesters upon their arrival at the Champs Elysees in Paris, on December 15, 2018. (Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP)

Hundreds of people began converging on the Champs-Elysees in the morning.

“We’re here to represent all our friends and members of our family who can’t come to protest, or because they’re scared,” said Pierre Lamy, a 27-year-old industrial worker wearing a yellow vest and with a French flag draped over his shoulders as he walked to the protest with three friends.

He said the protests had long stopped being about the fuel tax and had turned into a movement for economic justice.

“Everything’s coming up now,” Lamy said. “We’re being bled dry.”

A man wearing an Anonymous mask and holding a Star Wars Jedi lightsaber takes part in a “yellow vest” demonstration by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, on December 15, 2018. (Christophe Archambault/AFP)

Macron on Friday called for calm during the demonstrations, and the French government reiterated the call online for demonstrators to remain peaceful.

“Protesting is a right. So let’s know how to exercise it,” the government tweeted from its official account, with a 34-second video which begins with images of historic French protests and recent footage of “yellow vests” rallying peacefully before turning to violence.

“Protesting is not smashing. Protesting is not smashing our heritage. Protesting is not smashing our businesses. … Protesting is not smashing our republic,” the video says.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/heavy-police-presence-in-paris-ahead-of-yellow-vest-protests/

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Yellow Vests: Strong police presence in Paris before planned protests

December 15, 2018

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.

Riot police officers take position during clashes. (File/AP)

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Security forces in riot gear were positioned Saturday morning around central train stations and along the famed Champs-Elysees boulevard, where shops were closed and boarded up in anticipation of the protests.

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Last weekend, groups of demonstrators smashed and looted stores and set up burning barricades in the streets.

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There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags for helmets and other potential signs of trouble. More than 20 police vans and a water cannon truck idled nearby.

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President Emanuel Macron on Friday called for calm during the demonstrations.

Associated Press

See also:

Paris and other French cities braced again as ‘yellow vests’ set for more Saturday protests

https://www.thelocal.fr/20181214/police-preparing-for-more-yellow-vest-protests-in-paris-this-saturday

Paris and other French cities braced again as 'yellow vests' set for more Saturday protests

French govt urges end to “yellow vest” protests after Strasbourg attack

December 13, 2018

The French government on Thursday urged “yellow vest” protesters not to hold another round of demonstrations this weekend as police hunted for a second day for the fugitive gunman who attacked a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux called on the anti-government protesters to be “reasonable”, citing the strain on security forces after the attack in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening.

Police across several European countries have launched a manhunt for the main suspect, a 29-year-old Strasbourg native, who killed two and injured 13 after opening fire on shoppers.

The suspected killer, identified as Cherif Chekatt, is thought to have been injured after exchanging fire with soldiers, but managed to escape and has not been seen since.

Jean-Philippe Ksiazek, AFP | Yellow vest protestors occupy a traffic circle on December 11. More protests are planned for Saturday, but the government is urging protestors to stay home in the wake of the Strasbourg attack.

“Our security forces have been deployed extensively these past few weeks,” Griveaux told CNews television.

“It would be better if everyone could go about their business calmly on Saturday, before the year-end celebrations with their families, instead of demonstrating and putting our security forces to work once again,” he added.

>> Strasbourg shooting: tourists and locals among the victims

So-called “yellow vest” protesters, known for their fluorescent high-visibility jackets, had called for a fifth round of protests this Saturday against President Emmanuel Macron.

The protests began on November 17 over fuel tax increases, but snowballed into a revolt over living standards as well as Macron’s perceived indifference to the problems of ordinary citizens.

The appeal came as authorities announced that a sixth person had died since the start of the protests, after a 23-year-old was hit by a truck in southern France near Avignon.

Even before Tuesday’s attack in Strasbourg, the government had scrapped a fuel tax increase slated for January, a core demand of the protesters, who mainly live in rural areas and smaller towns and rely heavily on their cars.

Macron also announced a hike in the minium wage, tax relief on overtime work and a rollback on taxes for many pensioners in a televised address to the nation on Monday night.

>> ‘All smoke and mirrors’: Yellow Vest protesters reject ‘crumbs’ offered by Macron

Last Saturday nearly 90,000 police were mobilised across the country for the protests, with 8,000 officers and a dozen armoured vehicles deployed in the capital, where scores of stores, museums and monuments were closed.

While some of the movement’s representatives have said they are open to halting the protests to negotiate with the government, others have said Macron’s concessions are not enough.

Wide search

Hundreds of police in France are now hunting for Chekatt, whose picture was published late on Wednesday in a bid to track a career criminal who has at least 27 convictions in four European countries.

His mother and father, as well as two brothers, were detained for questioning Wednesday.

Strasbourg’s location at the crossroads of France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg, makes the search more complicated.

Chekatt, who lived in a rundown apartment block a short drive from the city centre, was flagged by French security forces in 2015 as a possible Islamic extremist while in prison.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Wednesday that France’s anti-terror Sentinelle operation, which counts around 7,000 soldiers nationwide, would be boosted by a total of 1,800 troops over the coming days.

Among the casualties in Strasbourg, two were killed outright and another has been declared brain-dead, while 12 more were injured, six critically, France’s anti-terror prosecutor Remy Heitz said.

They included one Thai tourist who was among the dead.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha sent a letter of condolence to his French counterpart saying he was “profoundly shocked and saddened to learn of the horrendous attack in Strasbourg”.

The statement said the Thai citizen had been on holiday in the city.

In Rome, the foreign ministry said one of the injured was an Italian journalist covering the European parliament, but did not confirm media reports that he was in a serious condition.

According to a tweet by Poland’s embassy in Paris, a Polish citizen was also among the injured.

(AFP)

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Egypt restricts yellow vests sales to avoid copycat protests — Egypt won’t pay what Macron may have to

December 11, 2018

Egyptian authorities have quietly introduced restrictions on the sale of yellow reflective vests, fearing opponents might attempt to copy French protesters during next month’s anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, security officials and retailers said Monday.

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They said industrial safety equipment dealers have been instructed not to sell yellow vests to walk-in buyers and to restrict business to wholesale sales to verified companies, but only after securing police permission. They were told offenders would be punished, the officials said without elaborating.

The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November. (Shutterstock)

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Six retailers in a Cairo downtown area where industrial safety stores are concentrated said they were no longer selling yellow vests. Two declined to sell them, giving no explanation, but the remaining four told The Associated Press they were told not to by police.

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“They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France,” said one retailer. “The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions,” said another. Both spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

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Security officials said the restrictions would remain in force until the end of January. They said industrial safety product importers and wholesale merchants were summoned to a meeting with senior police officers in Cairo this week and informed of the rules.

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The officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the measures, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media. Repeated calls and messages to the spokesman of the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, to seek comment went unanswered.

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The move showcases the depth of the Egyptian government’s concern with security. The past two years, Egyptian authorities clamped down heavily, deploying police and soldiers across the country, to prevent any marches to commemorate the Jan. 25 anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising. Scores were killed and wounded in clashes during the uprising anniversaries in years before that.

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The yellow vests worn by French protesters have become the symbol of the wave of demonstrations that began in November against a rise in fuel taxes but mushroomed to include a range of demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.

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Egyptian media coverage of the unrest has emphasized the ensuing riots, looting and arson in Paris, echoing President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s frequent refrain that street action leads to chaos. He recently outright denounced for the first time the 2011 uprising, saying it plunged the country into economic and political turmoil.

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Egypt has virtually banned protests, and the general-turned-president El-Sisi often warns that his tough hand ensuring stability is necessary, pointing to war and destruction in Syria, Yemen and Libya as the alternative. His emphasis on security has taken on added significance amid his ambitious program to reform the economy, which has unleashed steep price hikes, hitting the middle class hard.

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Since El-Sisi rose to office in 2014, there have been no significant protests. Still, the government is constantly wary they could return, especially given that the 2011 protests erupted as part of a chain reaction, inspired by Tunisia’s “Arab Spring” uprising.

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Rights lawyer Gamal Eid said his Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information has seen a recent spike in small “social protests,” with the privatization of state-owned enterprises the main issue.
“The government here is talking up its achievements, but it fears a backlash because ordinary people have yet to tangibly benefit from the mega projects underway,” said Eid, who is banned by authorities from traveling while his group’s online site is blocked by the government.

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Negad Borai, another rights lawyer, said the government could delay expected price hikes next year “to avoid protests inspired by what’s happening in France.”

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El-Sisi led the military’s 2013 ouster of a freely elected but divisive president. He was elected in 2014 and, earlier this year, won a second-term, running virtually unopposed. He has overseen the largest crackdown on critics seen in Egypt in living memory, jailing thousands of Islamists along with pro-democracy activists, reversing freedoms won in the 2011 uprising, silencing critics and placing draconian rules on rights groups.

Associated Press

France yellow vest protests: Macron promises wage increase — Promises to listen to the struggles of ordinary people

December 11, 2018

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has promised a minimum wage rise and tax concessions in response to weeks of violent protests.

France has seen four weekends of violent protests against fuel tax rises, living costs and other issues.

Speaking in a televised address, Mr Macron condemned the violence but said the protesters’ anger was “deep, and in many ways legitimate”.

The minimum wage would increase by €100 per month from 2019, he said.

A planned tax increase for low-income pensioners would be cancelled, overtime pay would no longer be taxed, and employers would be encouraged to pay a tax-free end of year bonus to employees, he added.

However, he refused to reinstate a tax on the wealthy, saying “this would weaken us, we need to create jobs”.

Protesters wearing yellow vests watch French President Emmanuel Macron on a TV screen
Some protesters gathered to watch the president’s speech. Reuters Photo

The minimum wage will be increased by 7% – and the cost of this increase will be met by the government rather than employers.

Government minister Olivier Dussopt told broadcaster BFMTV the total cost of all the measures is likely to be between €8bn and €10bn.

“We are in the process of fine-tuning and to see how to finance it,” he added.

Macron ‘had no choice’

Analysis by the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris

They wanted more than just a politician’s promises. They wanted measures, banknotes in their pockets, a tangible change in their impoverished daily lives.

President Macron got the message. In fact he had no choice. To have blethered about future challenges and the need for nation-building would have driven the yellow vests to distraction.

So here – at the core of the address – were four simple changes: a rise in the minimum wage; the removal of tax and social charges on overtime; encouragement to employers to give workers a tax-free bonus; and an end to a surcharge on most pensions.

Plus a note of contrition, and a promise of a new “national contract” built on electoral change and wider consultation with the provinces.

Chuck in the concessions already given – an end to the fuel tax rise and “mobility” grants for people who drive to work – and the yellow vests suddenly appear as one of the most successful protest movements of modern times.

Four weeks after their first Facebook videos were posted, they have forced a total reorientation of French social and economic policy. And without even making out a formal list of demands.


What did Macron say about the protests?

Mr Macron, who has until now kept a low profile during the protests, acknowledged that many people were unhappy with living conditions and felt they “had not been listened to”.

He said that over the last 40 years there had been “a malaise” of “villages and neighbourhoods where public services have been diminishing, where living conditions had deteriorated”.

There were many “people whose status in society had not been sufficiently well recognised. In a cowardly way, we had got used to it and everything seemed to suggest that we had forgotten them.

“I assume my share of the situation – I may have given you the feeling I have other concerns and priorities. I know some of you have been hurt by my words,” he added.

Mr Macron, a former banker, has previously been criticised for being out of touch and not listening to the struggles of ordinary people.

He sought to change this impression on Monday, pledging to meet mayors from all the regions of France, and encourage “unprecedented debate”.

“We must tackle the question of immigration,” he added, while also urging the nation to come together to “change in order to take into account climate change and other challenges”.

What reaction has there been?

The proposals were dismissed by one yellow vest protester, Benjamin Cauchy, who told France 2 TV: “These are half measures. We feel that Macron has got a lot more to give.”

His political opponents were also critical: left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said he expected more protests, right-wing politician Eric Woerth described the moves as a “short-term” solution, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Mr Macron had addressed some but not all of his mistakes.

Meanwhile, a group of anti-racism NGOs, SOS Racisme, told Le Figaro newspaper they were concerned about Mr Macron’s comments on immigration.

Chart showing how Macron's poll ratings compare with his predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy

What is the yellow-vest movement?

The protesters adopted the name after a social-media campaign urging people to take to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow jackets that must be carried in every vehicle in France.

They were initially protesting against a rise in duties on diesel, which is widely used by French motorists and has long been less heavily taxed than other types of fuel.

Mr Macron had said higher taxes on fossil fuels were needed to fund renewable energy investments.

But protests have also erupted over other issues, including calls for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions and easier university entry requirements.

The movement’s core aim, to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families, has widespread support.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46513189

Protest timeline

  • 17 November: 282,000 protesters – one dead, 409 wounded – 73 in custody
  • 24 November: 166,000 protesters – 84 wounded – 307 in custody
  • 1 December: 136,000 protesters – one dead, 263 wounded – 630 in custody
  • 8 December: 136,000 protesters – 118 wounded – 1,220 in custody