French po­lice clash with protesters in paris

Au­thor­i­ties said 575 peo­ple had been searched and briefly ar­rested; 361 of them re­mained in cus­tody af­ter po­lice found po­ten­tial weapons.

The Sunday Guardian - - World - REUTERS

French riot po­lice fired tear gas and clashed with “yel­low vest” protesters in cen­tral Paris on Satur­day dur­ing the lat­est in a wave of demon­stra­tions against the high cost of liv­ing that have shaken Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s au­thor­ity.

Au­thor­i­ties said 575 peo­ple had been searched and briefly ar­rested and 361 peo­ple of them re­mained in cus­tody af­ter po­lice found po­ten­tial weapons such as ham­mers, base­ball bats and metal petanque balls on them. Hun­dreds of protesters were milling around the Arc de Tri­om­phe mon­u­ment, which was de­faced with anti-Macron graf­fiti last Satur­day, when riot­ers also torched dozens of cars and looted shops in the worst ri­ot­ing in Paris since May 1968. A po­lice spokes­woman told re­porters there were about 1,500 protesters on the Champs El­y­sees boule­vard. Large groups of peo­ple spilled into other ar­eas and head­ing to east­ern Paris, where a march against cli­mate change was sched­uled for the af­ter­noon. Some also tem­po­rar­ily blocked the ring road cir­cling cen­tral Paris.

“We took the train for 11 hours just to protest to­day. We feel scorned by these tech­nocrats that gov­ern us,” said Gilles Noblet, a demon­stra­tor from the south­west re­gion of Ariege. Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe ap­pealed for re­straint.

“We will do all we can so that to­day can be a day with­out vi­o­lence, so that the di­alogue that we started this week can con­tinue in the best pos­si­ble cir­cum­stances,” he said on French tele­vi­sion. On Tues­day, Philippe an­nounced the gov­ern­ment was sus­pend­ing planned in­creases to fuel taxes for at least six months to help defuse weeks of protests, the first U-turn by Macron since he came to power 18 months ago. About 89,000 po­lice were de­ployed across France on Satur­day, some 8,000 of them in Paris. “We have pre­pared a ro­bust re­sponse,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner told on­line news site Brut. He called on peace­ful protesters not to get mixed up with “hooli­gans”.

“The trou­ble­mak­ers can only be ef­fec­tive when they dis­guise them­selves as yel­low vests. Vi­o­lence is never a good way to get what you want. Now is the time for dis­cus­sion,” he said.

“We have come here for a peace­ful march, not to smash things. We want equal­ity, we want to live, not sur­vive,” said Guil­laume Le Grac, 28, who works in a slaugh­ter­house in the town of Guingamp in Bri­tanny.

Protesters, us­ing so­cial me­dia, have billed the week­end as “Act IV” in a dra­matic chal­lenge to Macron and his poli­cies.

Small groups of riot po­lice moved quickly among pro- testors and clamped down on any­one try­ing to dam­age shops or pub­lic ameni­ties.

Much of Paris looked like a ghost town, with mu­se­ums, depart­ment stores closed on what should have been a fes­tive pre-Christ­mas shop­ping day. Tourists were few and res­i­dents were ad­vised to stay at home if at all pos­si­ble. Dozens of streets were closed to traf­fic, while the Eif­fel Tower and world-fa­mous mu­se­ums such as the Musee d’Or­say, the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou and the Lou­vre were shut.

“Tourists are a bit dis­ori­ented—no sub­way, no shop­ping, no mu­se­ums... but they seem to take it in their stride,” said ho­tel re­cep­tion­ist Pas­cal, who de­clined to give his sur­name.

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