■ 31,000 peo­ple protests na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing 8,000 in Paris ■ Around 700 peo­ple de­tained

Deccan Chronicle - - Front Page -

Paris, Dec. 8: Ar­moured ve­hi­cles rolled through cen­tral Paris on Satur­day as riot po­lice clashed with “yel­low vest” demon­stra­tors, who set fire to bar­ri­cades and hurled rocks in the lat­est demon­stra­tions against Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

Shouts of “Macron, re­sign” min­gled with tear gas on the Champ­sEl­y­sees av­enue, which was the scene of the worst ri­ot­ing in Paris in decades last week.

Thick plumes of black smoke from fires could be seen ris­ing high into the sky over the city.

Gov­ern­ment calls for protesters to stay away from “Act IV” of a bat­tle that be­gan over fuel prices but bal­looned into an an­tiMacron re­volt fell on deaf ears, with demon­stra­tors mak­ing their way to Paris from across the coun­try.

In the Grands Boule­vards shop­ping district, masked protesters threw rocks at riot po­lice and set fire to a bar­ri­cade hastily as­sem­bled from stolen dust­bins and Christ­mas trees. De­nis, a 30-year-old fork­lift driver from the Nor­mandy port of Caen, travelled to Paris for the first time on Satur­day to make his voice heard af­ter three weeks at the bar­ri­cades in the prov­inces.

“I’m here for my 15month-old son. I can’t let him live in a coun­try where the poor are ex­ploited,” he said.

The demon­stra­tors be­gan blockad­ing roads over ris­ing fuel taxes on Novem­ber 17 but their list of de­mands have since grown, with many call­ing for the res­ig­na­tion of Macron, whom they ac­cuse of favour­ing the rich.

Co­or­di­nated “yel­low vest” protests were tak­ing place across the coun­try on Satur­day, in­clud­ing on nu­mer­ous mo­tor­ways, caus­ing havoc on the na­tional road net­work.

Deputy in­te­rior min­is­ter Lau­rent Nunez said an es­ti­mated 31,000 peo­ple were tak­ing part in protests na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing 8,000 in Paris — sim­i­lar num­bers to last week.

Around 700 peo­ple had been de­tained, most of them in Paris. Po­lice car­ried out checks on peo­ple ar­riv­ing at the cap­i­tal's train sta­tions, con­fis­cat­ing items that could be used as pro­jec­tiles as well as sur­gi­cal masks and gog­gles used to pro­tect against the ef­fects of tear gas. Some of those ar­rested were car­ry­ing ham­mers, sling­shots and rocks. But many of the demon­stra­tors in­sisted they wanted no vi­o­lence.

Parts of the city cen­tre were on ef­fec­tive lock­down, with shops, mu­se­ums, the Eif­fel Tower and many metro sta­tions closed.

Top-flight foot­ball matches and con­certs were can­celled. Last week­end’s vi­o­lence, which saw some 200 cars torched and the Arc de Tri­om­phe van­dalised, shook France and plunged Macron’s gov­ern­ment into its deep­est cri­sis so far.

“These past three weeks have pro­duced a mon­ster that its cre­ators no longer con­trol,” in­te­rior min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner said Fri­day, vow­ing “zero tol­er­ance” to­wards those aim­ing to wreak fur­ther de­struc­tion.


A pro­tester wear­ing a yel­low vest (Gilet jaune) throws a cob­ble at po­lice forces near the Champs El­y­sees in Paris on Satur­day.

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