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Almost two years after the gilets jaunes movement sprung up, activists are set to descend on towns and city centres on Saturday in a bid to give French families a voice in the midst of the public health crisis. The yellow vests have been gearing up for their return on social media, teaming up with anti-mask crusaders. The yellow vests announced plans for the new operation on their Facebook page, which is followed by 110,000 profiles.
Jerome Rodrigues, one of the leaders of the movement, urged people to join the ranks of the gatherings on September 1.
In a warning to Mr Macron, Mr Rodrigues called for “complete civil disobedience”.
He urged activists to refuse to reveal their identity to police officers, if asked.
He added: “I invite you that day not to show your ID even if it means going for a little walk to the police station for an identity check and spending four hours there.”
Rallies are expected across France “to give a voice” to key workers who have continued working throughout the pandemic.
But the movement also claims to represent business owners who have suffered as a result of the national lockdown, including pub and restaurant owners.
Mr Rodrigues said the group wanted to stage protests “in order to make this government listen to families in France, who unfortunately will have to pay the price of a disastrous management of the health crisis for which they want us to bear the consequences, make us pay, as well as our children and grandchildren”.
A number of Facebook groups following the yellow vests have fashioned themselves as pro-democracy campaigners, including the “September 12: We are the 2nd Wave for Democracy”.
One scheduled demo will kick off on Saturday morning in the 17th arrondissement of Paris.
Marchers will make their way through the streets and finish up at the Place Saint-Pierre.
Another march will start at the Place de la Republique before snaking through the streets to the Place de la Nation.
Police in Paris banned two planned marches, one scheduled to take place in the Champs-Elysees and the other at the Place de l’Etoile.
Police chief Dider Lallement warned the gatherings would have seen people flout social distancing rules designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
He said the rallies were “likely to generate disturbances to public order and bring together many people without being able to guarantee compliance with hygiene and social distancing measures”.
More than 2,000 social media users have “signed up” to attend rallies this weekend.
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On Thursday France recorded almost 10,000 new coronavirus cases, marking the highest single-day increase since the epidemic began.
Rallies have also been planned in other cities across France including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon, Lille, Nice and Strasbourg.
La France Insoumise spoke out in favour of the action planned for this weekend.
In a statement, the party welcomed the movement of yellow vests, which “carries anger and legitimate demands”.
The first demonstration staged by the group in winter 2018 saw 300,000 people march calling for governmental reforms.
French think tank Jean Jaures Foundation has predicted a huge turnout, as a recent poll showed one in five people who are opposed to mandatory mask rules admitted they had taken part in yellow vest protests in the past.
More than half of those surveyed said they backed the yellow vests.
Nightclub owners are planning on swelling the ranks of the group as they have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis.
Comedian Jean-Marie Bigard, who has announced his candidacy for the 2022 presidential election, recently came out in support of the yellow vests.
However, disparaging remarks made by Mr Rodrigues towards the police pushed him to “dissociate himself” from the leader of the movement.
As a result, Mr Bigard plans to support protesters in the north-western city of Brest, avoiding the gathering in Paris.
Mr Bigard said in a video: “I say no, I can’t demonstrate on Saturday with a guy who calls the police ‘Nazis’.
“I am a friend of the police as much as I am a friend of the yellow vests, that is not at all contradictory.”
Explaining his reasons for choosing to stand in the presidential election, he said: “There are nine million people in France who struggle to make ends meet from the second of the month in the seventh richest country in the world.
“I expect the worst, I have some punches to take. I stand on my own. The others force-feed themselves with the people’s money.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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