Tear gas as new ‘yellow vest’ demo hits Paris
Police fired tear gas and arrested hundreds of people in Paris as the French capital went on lockdown for the latest “yellow vest” protests against President Emmanuel Macron.
Shouts of “Macron, resign” mingled with the tear gas near the famous Champs-elysees avenue, the scene last Saturday of the worst rioting in Paris for decades.
A forklift truck driver who gave his name as Denis said he was planning, like others, to march on Macron’s presidential palace in anger against a leader “who only looks out for the rich”.
“I’m here for my son,” said the 30-year-old, who travelled down to Paris from the Normandy port of Caen.
“I can’t let him live in a country where the poor are exploited.”
The protests began on November 17 with road blockades against rising fuel prices but have since ballooned into a mass movement against Macron’s policies and top-down style of governing.
Coordinated “yellow vest” protests were taking place across the country, including on numerous motorways, causing havoc on the national road network.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said more than 700 people had been detained in Paris as police carried out checks on people arriving at train stations and at protest hotspots such as the Champs-elysees and Bastille monument.
Among them were dozens arrested for carrying masks, hammers, slingshots and rocks.
Shops, museums, the Eiffel Tower and metro stations were closed, while top-flight football matches and concerts were cancelled.
Last weekend’s violence, which saw 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 Castaner said, vowing “zero tolerance” towards those aiming to wreak further destruction.
Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described “moderate” yellow vests who urged people not to join the protests.
A spokesman from the movement, Christophe Chalencon, said Philippe had “listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president”.
“Now we await Macron. I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and he will take strong decisions,” he said.