French police fire tear gas at 'yellow vest' protesters in Nantes

Officials say at least 21 people have been arrested in a new wave of 'yellow vest' protests against the government.

    Television footage showed groups of black-clad protesters trying to break into shops in Nantes [Stephane Mahe/Reuters]
    Television footage showed groups of black-clad protesters trying to break into shops in Nantes [Stephane Mahe/Reuters]

    Hundreds of demonstrators have faced the police in a tense standoff in the French city of Nantes in a new wave of "yellow vest" protests against the government.

    Police responded with tear gas on Saturday after some protesters threw projectiles, while a spokesman with the local prefecture said 21 people had been arrested.

    Television footage showed groups of black-clad protesters trying to break into shops as police trucks carrying water cannon were seen arriving at the scene.

    The "yellow vest" protests began over fuel tax increases last year, but morphed into a sometimes violent revolt against French President Emmanuel Macron and his government. 

    The protests have hurt the 41-year-old president's popularity, forcing him to take a less confrontational approach to the demonstrators and their demands.

    Macron's government has sought to ease tensions with 17 billion euros ($18.82bn) of countermeasures to boost the monthly minimum wage, remove some taxes, and offer relief to poor retirees.

    On Tuesday, the French president visited a warehouse in the south of Paris, where he was seen taking questions and listening to the concerns of blue-collar workers for several hours.

    "I'm fully ready to take a little more time," Macron told the workers at the warehouse get-together, broadcast live on French TV.

    Pension reforms

    Despite Macron's recent efforts to make amends, the French government faces a new round of protests over the long-awaited pension reforms that seek to merge France's 42 different pension systems into a single points-based system.

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    The moves could make some employees like transit workers work longer before retiring but keeps France's legal retirement age at 62.

    On Friday, Paris witnessed the biggest public transport strike since 2007 in response to the proposed reforms, causing major traffic jams, disrupting tourists' plans and forcing commuters to work from home or find alternative ways to reach the office.

    Paris public transport company RATP said 10 metro lines were closed and several others were severely disrupted. 

    More protests have been planned by the French pilots, nurses and lawyers on Monday, while the "yellow vest" protesters are calling for a "big mobilisation" on September 21.

    The pension changes will be formally presented and debated in Parliament next year, following a three-month consultation with unions and employers' groups.

    SOURCE: News agencies