Pres­i­dent dines as Paris burns

Sunday Express - - A BREXIT DEAL IS STILL A COSTLY THREAT - By Berny Torre

RI­OT­ERS set fire to Paris in a fresh round of protests against ris­ing fuel prices and the high cost of liv­ing yes­ter­day.

As French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron dined on crab and steak at the G20 sum­mit, pro­test­ers clashed with po­lice, who sprayed tear gas, fired wa­ter can­nons and stun grenades in a bid to stop ‘yel­low vest’ mil­i­tants in their tracks.

Demon­stra­tors oc­cu­pied the Champs El­y­sees, set cars and Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions ablaze, rolled ve­hi­cles stole an as­sault ri­fle from of­fi­cers and sprayed Sev­eral hun­dred pro­test­ers sang the na­tional an­them and chanted “Macron re­sign!” as more than 5,000 – who ac­cuse the pres­i­dent of be­ing out of touch with or­di­nary peo­ple.

Ad­dress­ing a news con­fer­ence in Buenos Aires, pres­i­dent Macron in­sisted no cause jus­ti­fied the vi­o­lence.

“I will al­ways re­spect dif­fer­ences. I will al­ways lis­ten to op­po­si­tion, but I will never ac­cept vi­o­lence,” he said.

Tens of thou­sands more pro­test­ers took part in ral­lies across the coun­try, in Mar­seille, Biar­ritz and An­tibes on the Mediter­ranean coast and even the Nether­lands.

It was one of the big­gest chal­lenges to Macron in his 18 months in of­fice.

As the vi­o­lence spread build­ings were set alight and at least 19 cen­tral Paris metro sta­tions, plus the Ga­leries Lafayette and Prin­temps de­part­ment stores closed their doors.

“We went to the Ga­leries Lafayette as we thought we would be safe there but then we were evac­u­ated by staff and se­cu­rity,” said tourist Tina Holten, 35, from Den­mark. “We felt safe in­side but now we are out­side we are very scared. ”

Around Saint Lazare sta­tion, a bank’s win­dows were smashed be­fore mounted po­lice pushed pro­test­ers back.

An in­sur­ance firm was scrawled with graf­fiti read­ing “Macron in prison”.

On night fell on ex­clu­sive Rue de la Paix, piles of Christ­mas trees were left smoul­der­ing.

And the US em­bassy warned Amer­i­can cit­i­zens to take shel­ter from “vi­o­lent clashes” .

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