George Pearmain (33), a Jersey advocate who is currently working for a large international organisation in Paris, lives in the fourth arrondissement, which is just down the street from the Hôtel de Ville, one of the focal points for protestors.
‘For two Saturdays in a row now, they have been parading along the Rue de Rivoli, just 150 metres from my flat,’ he said. ‘And on the first weekend, I was out shopping with some friends who were over and we got pepper sprayed, partially.
‘The French police had just sprayed someone on the road and we were walking down, thinking what we could smell was firecrackers or something, and then all of a sudden we were coughing and spluttering and we saw people walking back the other way with scarves over their mouths.
‘The pepper spray was just drifting around, and that was happening right next to Hôtel de Ville.’
Members of the Gilets Jaunes (yellow jackets) movement have been staging organised protests throughout France since the middle of last month, motivated by rises in domestic fuel prices and the cost of living.
The disruption caused by the Gilets Jaunes, especially in Paris, has been described as some of the worst in recent
memory, and has been called ‘an economic catastrophe’ by the French government.
Ahead of this weekend’s so-called ‘Act V’ of the protests, Mr Pearmain said: ‘Last weekend was oddly quiet after the event. A lot of people stayed in, cafés didn’t put their chairs out, the major shops in the city centre were boarded up, and by the evening it was just eerily quiet.’
When asked whether, following the shootings at the Christmas market in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening, he had noticed the police presence being stepped up even further in the capital, Mr Pearmain said that large government and international buildings in the city, including the one in which he works, have seen increased security.
‘There’s been an increased presence of French government security services and dogs, and they are now checking people streets away from the office, as opposed to just next door,’ he said. ‘And last Saturday, we were warned, as employees, not to try to come to the building.
‘Oddly,’ he added, ‘I was actually in Strasbourg last week and I walked through Place Kléber [where the shooting began] at 7.45 pm on my way to meet someone for dinner.’