Paris rioters on the rampage
135 INJURED, 1,385 IN CUSTODY AS PROTESTS ESCALATE IN A DRAMATIC CHALLENGE TO MACRON
French riot police clashed with “yellow vest” protesters in central Paris yesterday during the latest wave of demonstrations against high living costs which have shaken President Emmanuel Macron’s authority.
Protesters played a cat-andmouse game with riot police, moving from the heavily guarded Champs Elysees area to other parts of the city, setting cars, garbage bins and wooden shutters on fire. More than 135 people were injured.
More than 1,385 protesters remained in custody after police found they carried potential weapons such as hammers, baseball bats and metal balls.
PM calls for dialogue
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe yesterday called for fresh dialogue with representatives of the protesters, promising the government would address concerns over rising living costs. “The dialogue has begun and it must continue,” Philippe said in a televised statement. “The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue.” Macron has stayed out of the public eye all week, leaving his unpopular government to try to calm the nation.
Some 125,000 people were demonstrating across France. Police fired tear gas, used water cannon and horses to charge at protesters, but there was less violence than last week, when rioters torched 112 cars and looted shops in the worst rioting in Paris since May 1968. “We were on our knees and they shot tear gas at us. I am telling you, things are going to blow up tonight,” said Yanis Areg, 21, from Paris suburb Montfermeil.
Protesters, using social media, have billed the weekend as “Act IV” in a dramatic challenge to Macron and his policies. Much of Paris looked like a ghost town, with museums, department stores closed on what should have been a festive pre-Christmas shopping day.
Armoured vehicles rolled through central Paris yesterday 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 Champs-Elysees 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 anti-Macron 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 yesterday to make his voice heard after three weeks at the barricades in the provinces.
“I’m here for my 15-monthold son. I can’t let him live in a country where the poor are exploited,” he told AFP.
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 yesterday, 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 1,385 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. Topflight football matches and concerts were cancelled.
Meeting with moderates
Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of selfdescribed “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 Mr Macron. I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and that he will take strong decisions,” he said.
Philippe said some 89,000 police were being mobilised for protests nationwide, including 8,000 police in Paris, where a dozen armoured vehicles were being deployed for the first time in decades.
Shopowners around the Champs-Elysees boarded up their windows and emptied them of merchandise on Friday, while the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and other museums were shut.
Department stores were also ■ ■ closed due to the risk of looting on what would normally be a busy shopping weekend in the run-up to Christmas. Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world’s most visited cities.
The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to “keep a low profile and avoid crowds”, while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens to postpone any planned visits. In a warning of impending violence, an MP for Macron’s party, Benoit Potterie, received a bullet in the post on Friday with the words: “Next time it will be between your eyes.” ■
A motorbike burns on the Boulevard de Courcelles in Paris after being set ablaze by protesters yesterday.
Coordinated ‘yellow vest’ protests were taking place across the country yesterday, including on numerous motorways.
Riot police next to a car set on fire during the ‘yellow vest’ protest on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris.
A car burns during a ‘yellow vests’ protest near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris yesterday.