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Yellow vest protests hit bastion of Germany's car industry

Protesters wearing yellow vests hold a banner reading "Diesel drivers resist!" during a demonstration against Germany's first comprehensive driving ban for older diesels, in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on February 2, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of Germans have donned yellow vests to match protesters in France, demonstrating in the bastion of Germany's car industry in Stuttgart against a recent driving ban on older diesels.

The protest came after organizers asked people to hit the streets clad in the yellow high-visibility vests that have defined months of protests in France -- themselves triggered by an increase in tax on diesel.

"The French are an example to us, because they dared take to the streets to protect their rights," organizer Vasilos Topalis told Agence France-Presse (AFP). 

Stuttgart is home of Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, Volkswagen subsidiary Porsche and the world's biggest car parts supplier Bosch. 

Since January 1, only diesel vehicles meeting the Euro 5 emissions standard are allowed into Stuttgart, with efforts underway to implement similar driving bans in many German cities.



A protester wears a yellow vest with the slogan "Pro Diesel" during a demonstration against Germany's first comprehensive driving ban for older diesels, in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on February 2, 2019.(Photo by AFP)

Topalis said tens of thousands of people are affected by the bans and cannot afford to buy a new car. "What's happening to people is unjust," he added.

The protest came as France’s yellow vest protesters returned to the streets Saturday to keep up the pressure on the government and decry the number of people being injured by police during demonstrations.

Multiple protests took place in Paris and other cities to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies, which they view as favoring the rich, for the 12th straight weekend of demonstrations.

The government says around 2,000 people have been injured in protests since the movement began Nov. 17 and 10 people have died in traffic accidents related to yellow vest actions.

Protesters and rights groups have denounced the French police’s response to the yellow vests marches as "excessive,” including their use of controversial high-velocity rubber bullets. 

France’s Council of State, however, ruled Friday that security forces have a right to use them for crowd control.

Meanwhile, a bill is under debate in the French parliament to strengthen measures against protesters whom they view as troublemakers. Rights groups and opposition lawmakers say the bill goes too far in restricting the right to protest.

The bill would authorize police to prevent people they see as a serious threat to public order from taking part in protests. It would also make it a crime for protesters to conceal their faces during demonstrations.

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