France in f lames
Rioters torch cars and Christmas trees and steal police rif le as Paris protests spread to Toulouse, Marseilles – and even Holland
THE centre of Paris was a war zone last night as hundreds of ‘yellow vest’ protesters clashed with riot squads and set fire to cars and Christmas trees along the ChampsElysées.
As the violent protests spread to other cities including Toulouse and Marseilles as well as the Netherlands, officers fired tear gas and stun grenades at hooded demonstrators, some of who stole an assault rifle from police. At least 92 people were injured.
Last night, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the demonstrations, which were sparked by a rise in fuel prices and have threatened to derail his presidency.
‘I will never accept this violence,’ he said, speaking from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
‘No cause justifies that security forces are attacked, shops pillaged, public or private buildings set on fire, pedestrians or journalists threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is sullied.’
There were fears that violent farRight and far-Left groups had infil- trated the 5,000 demonstrators on the streets of Paris. Police made more than 200 arrests and closed 29 metro stations.
Chilling images showed individual officers being beaten by masked attackers, as other officers were drenched in yellow paint. At least a dozen cars were also set on fire.
Gregory Joron, of the SGP police union, said: ‘It is people’s right to demonstrate, but extremist groups have already joined in. Groups intent on trouble are appearing from all directions. They include those from the extreme Right and the ultra-Left.’
Jeanne d’Hauteserre, mayor of the city district that includes the Champs-Elysées, said: ‘We are in a state of insurrection, I’ve never seen anything like it.’
As security officials held crisis talks in the Interior Ministry for several hours during the afternoon, unrest erupted in several towns and cities across France, from Charleville Mezieres in the northeast to Marseilles in the south. In the Riviera city of Nice, trucks blocked access to the airport.
French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said there were around 36,000 ‘yellow vest’ protesters – named after the high- visibility jackets they wear – demonstrating across the country. And in Holland, around 100 demonstrators gathered outside the parliamentary complex in The Hague in protest at government policies.
Mr Macron has insisted that fuel prices have to rise in line with green initiatives made necessary by the Paris Climate Change accord. He said there would be ‘no possibility’ of his government backing down in the face of disturbances.
CLASHES: Firefighters tackle a burning car in the Champs-Elysées, and above left, yellow vest protesters set fire to barricades near the Arc de Triomphe