Clashes erupt as France’s ‘yellow vests’ stage fresh protests
PARIS: Protesters skirmished with police in Paris and other cities on Saturday as thousands turned out for new rallies against French President Emmanuel Macron, with dozens arrested as officials vowed a crackdown on the violence that has marred the demonstrations since November.
The “yellow vest” marches began calmly amid a heavy police deployment of some 80,000 officers nationwide, with protesters singing the “Marseillaise” national anthem and holding signs including “Insecurity is not a job”.
But scores of protesters later clashed with riot police after arriving at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, prompting volleys of tear gas and water cannon as security forces prevented them from reaching the Champs-Elysees.
Nearly 60 people had been arrested in the capital, police said, alongside dozens more elsewhere including the central city of Bourges, the site of another major rally.
The interior ministry said there were 32,000 protesters nationwide as of 2pm (1300 GMT), including 8,000 in Paris.
That was above the 26,000 counted at the same time last week. Many of the central districts of the capital were on lockdown for the ninth straight Saturday of protests, which have picked up steam after a holiday lull. Dozens of banks, jewellery stores and other shops were boarded up on the Champs-Elysees and elsewhere across the city, which have taken a heavy toll on businesses.
“We’ve come to Paris to make ourselves heard, and we wanted to see for ourselves at least once what’s going on here,” said Patrick, 37, who said he had travelled from the Savoie region. A few hundred protesters also clashed with police in the historic centre of Bourges, where nearly 5,000 people gathered as organisers sought to draw more participants from areas far from Paris.
Signs said “Macron resign!” and “France is angry,” while police said 18 people had been detained.
In the well-heeled racehorsing town of Chantilly just north of Paris, 1,000 or so protesters marched through the centre before descending on the hippodrome where they delayed the start of a race, local media said.
Sporadic skirmishes were also reported in the southern town of Nimes involving some 1,000 protesters. The demonstrations also spilt over the border into eastern Belgium late on Friday, where one of around 25 protesters manning a blockade died after being hit by a truck, Belgian media reported.
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IN FLAMES: Scores of ‘yellow vest’ protesters clashed with riot police after arriving at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, prompting volleys of tear gas and water cannon as security forces prevented them from reaching the Champs-Elysees.