Violent clashes engulf Paris in new anti-Macron protests

Violent clashes engulf Paris in new anti-Macron protests

Anti-government protesters torched dozens of cars and set fire to storefronts during daylong clashes with riot police across central Paris on Saturday, as thousands took part in fresh "yellow vest" protests against high fuel taxes.

Paris protests
Photo: AFP A French fire fighter walks towards flames as a Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) demonstrator waves the French flag during protests against rising oil prices and living costs in the French capital Paris on December 1, 2018.

Officers responded with tear gas after being targeted by protesters hurling rocks and other projectiles on the third weekend of demonstrations which have morphed into a broader rebuke of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Smoke engulfed several shopping districts as the violence spread from the Arc de Triomphe, where crowds had gathered earlier hoping to march down the Champs-Elysees.
While several dozens were allowed into the avenue after an ID check and search, many others - some wearing gas masks or ski goggles - remained behind and fought police manning barricades and water cannons.
Protesters then led police on cat-and-mouse chases through other parts of the capital, setting cars and construction equipment alight and smashing windows.
An assault rifle was stolen from a police vehicle, though it was unclear if it was loaded.
One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down one of the huge iron gates of the Tuileries garden facing the famed Louvre museum, crushing several people.
"Those responsible for this violence don't want change or improvement, they want chaos," President Emmanuel Macron said in Buenos Aires where he was attending the G20 summit.
Macron added that he had convened a meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and other top officials in Paris on Sunday after his return from Argentina.
"No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, that businesses are plundered, that passers-by or journalists are threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is defiled," he said.
Philippe said the violence was "incredibly shocking" during a visit evening to a police barracks on Saturday evening.
Authorities said at least 287 people were arrested in Paris and 110 injured, including 17 of the 5,000 police officers mobilised for the protests. Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set alight, the interior ministry said.
An estimated 75,000 demonstrators, most of them peaceful, were counted across the country in the afternoon, the interior ministry said.
The number was well below the first day of protests on November 17, which attracted around 282,000 people, and also down from the 106,000 who turned out last Saturday.
Acrid plumes of smoke and tear gas, however, were testament to the escalation in violence in Paris, to the consternation of many of the "yellow vests", so-called for the high-visibility jackets they wear.
Along the opulent Avenue Foch near the Arc de Triomphe, home to embassies and luxury residences, protesters ripped out benches to form a blockade, one person waving a skull-and-bones pirate flag.
Interior Minister Castaner attributed the violence to "specialists in sowing conflict, specialists in destruction".
He did not rule out imposing a state of emergency - a demand made by the police union Alliance - declaring: "Nothing is taboo for me. I am prepared to examine everything."

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