Vi­o­lence on the Champs-El­y­sees as pro­test­ers rage against taxes, Macron

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - 10 World -

PARIS — Anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers clashed with French po­lice on the Champ­sEl­y­sees in Paris on Sat­ur­day, leav­ing the area cloaked in tear gas and smoke from fires on a fresh day of demon­stra­tions against Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

Demon­stra­tors wear­ing the yel­low, high-vis­i­bil­ity vests that sym­bol­ize their move­ment threw pro­jec­tiles at po­lice pre­vent­ing them from mov­ing along the famed shop­ping av­enue, which was decked out in twin­kling Christ­mas lights.

They also built bar­ri­cades in some spots, and tore down traf­fic lights and street signs, cre­at­ing ri­otous scenes rem­i­nis­cent of France’s 1968 civil un­rest, or street in­sur­rec­tions in the mid-19th cen­tury im­mor­tal­ized in paint­ings and movies.

Po­lice ar­rested 130 peo­ple, 69 of those in Paris, and 24 peo­ple were in­jured, five of them po­lice of­fi­cers in­clud­ing one who suf­fered burns to his groin, the city po­lice de­part­ment and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner said.

Po­lice said that dozens of pro­test­ers were de­tained for “throw­ing pro­jec­tiles”, among other acts. By night­fall the Champs-El­y­sees was smol­der­ing and in the Place de la Madeleine, burned scoot­ers lay on the side­walk like black­ened shells.

Else­where, pro­test­ers took over high­way toll booths to let traf­fic pass for free, or held go-slow ve­hi­cle pro­ces­sions, un­der­lin­ing one of their core com­plaints of es­ca­lat­ing taxes on car fuel, es­pe­cially diesel.

Macron, tar­geted by pro­test­ers’ calls that he re­sign, took to Twit­ter to thank po­lice.

“Shame” on those who as­saulted or in­tim­i­dated cit­i­zens, jour­nal­ists and politi­cians, Macron said. “There is no place for vi­o­lence in the (French) Repub­lic.”

Calm re­turned to the streets of the cap­i­tal after mid­night on Sat­ur­day, with the Champs-El­y­sees re­open­ing to traf­fic.

The cleanup op­er­a­tion also got un­der way as garbage trucks were de­ployed and work­ers re­moved bar­ri­cades along the fa­mous av­enue.

The vi­o­lence was on a smaller scale than a week ago when the “yel­low vest” move­ment staged its first na­tion­wide protest.

“We’re not here to beat up cops. We came be­cause we want the gov­ern­ment to hear us,” said one protest spokes­woman, Laeti­tia De­walle, 37, adding that the largely spon­ta­neous move­ment de­nounced “vi­o­lence by pseudo-pro­test­ers” on the fringes.

“We have just demon­strated peace­fully, and we were tear­gassed,” said Christophe, 49, who trav­eled from the Isere re­gion with his wife to protest in the cap­i­tal.

The in­te­rior min­istry counted 106,000 pro­test­ers across France on Sat­ur­day, with 8,000 in Paris, of whom around 5,000 were on the Champs-El­y­sees.

That was far less than the na­tional tally of 282,000 in the Nov 17 protests.

The French gov­ern­ment cast blame for the un­ruly protests on far-right politi­cian Ma­rine Le Pen, claim­ing she egged them on.

But Le Pen re­jected that ac­cu­sa­tion, say­ing she had “never called for any vi­o­lence what­so­ever” and ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of seek­ing to make her a scape­goat.

KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A demon­stra­tor stands amongst a burn­ing makeshift bar­ri­cade, set up on the famed Champs-El­y­sees av­enue, dur­ing a protest against the ris­ing of the fuel taxes, in Paris, France, on Sat­ur­day.

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