France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Clash with Police in Paris

41
SHARE
A view of the Place de la Republique as protesters wearing yellow vests gather during a national day of protest by the
A view of the Place de la Republique as protesters wearing yellow vests gather during a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Advertisement

By Sybille de La Hamaide and Sudip Kar-Gupta
PARIS (Reuters) 

Anti-government protesters faced off with French riot police in Paris on Saturday, hurling projectiles, torching cars and vandalising shops and restaurants in a fourth weekend of unrest that has shaken President Emmanuel Macron’s authority

Police used tear gas, water cannon and horses to charge protesters on roads fanning out from the Champs Elysees boulevard, but encountered less violence than a week ago, when the capital witnessed its worst unrest since the 1968 student riots.

 

A fireman extinguishes a burning bicycle during clashes with yellow vests protesters as part of a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
A fireman extinguishes a burning bicycle during clashes with yellow vests protesters as part of a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

 

As night fell and many demonstrators started returning home, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said there had been about 10,000 protesters in Paris by early evening and some 125,000 across the country.

Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse and other cities also saw major clashes between protesters and police on Saturday.

 

 

“The situation is now under control,” Castaner said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

He said about 120 demonstrators and nearly 20 police officers had been injured nationwide. Nearly 1,000 people had been arrested, 620 of them in Paris, after police found potential weapons such as hammers and baseball bats on them.

 

Protesters wearing yellow vests hold a French flag as they gather at the Place de la Republique during a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
Protesters wearing yellow vests hold a French flag as they gather at the Place de la Republique during a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

 

Philippe said police would remain vigilant through the night as some protesters continued to roam the city.

Groups of youths, many of them masked, continued skirmishing with police in the Place de la Republique area as some stores were looted.

 

A protester wearing a yellow vest holds a French flag as he walks among tear gas on the Champs-Elysees Avenue near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
A protester wearing a yellow vest holds a French flag as he walks among tear gas on the Champs-Elysees Avenue near the Arc de Triomphe during a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

 

Named after the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists must carry, the “yellow vest” protests erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, when nearly 300,000 demonstrators nationwide took to the streets to denounce high living costs and Macron’s liberal economic reforms.

Demonstrators say the reforms favour the wealthy and do nothing to help the poor and billed Saturday’s protest “Act IV” of their protest after three consecutive Saturdays of rioting.

 

Protesters wearing yellow vests walk past burning trash bins during clashes with police at a demonstration during a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
Protesters wearing yellow vests walk past burning trash bins during clashes with police at a demonstration during a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

 

The government this week cancelled a planned rise in taxes on petrol and diesel in a bid to defuse the situation but the protests have morphed into a broader anti-Macron rebellion.

“Very sad day & night in Paris,” U.S. President Donald Trump said in a Twitter message. “Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes?”

 

SHUTTERED SHOPS

The protests are jeopardising a fragile economic recovery in France just as the Christmas holiday season kicks off.

 

A vancalize burnt car is seen after clashes at a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
A vandalized burnt car is seen after clashes at a demonstration by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

 

Retailers have lost an estimated one billion euros in revenue since the protests erupted and shares in tourism-related shares saw their worst week in months.

Swathes of Paris’ affluent Right Bank north of the Seine river were locked down on Saturday, with luxury boutiques boarded up, department stores closed and restaurants and cafes shuttered. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Paris Opera were also closed.

 

Protesters wearing yellow vests gather with demonstrators of the world climate march at the Place de la Republique during a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
Protesters wearing yellow vests gather with demonstrators of the world climate march at the Place de la Republique during a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. The slogan reads “Everything is already burning”. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

 

Demonstrators left a trail of destruction on Paris streets, with bank and insurance company offices’ windows smashed, cars and scooters set on fire and street furniture vandalised.

On the smashed front of one Starbucks cafe, vandals scrawled: “No fiscal justice, no social justice.”

 

A protester wearing a yellow vest stands next to burning trash bins in a street during a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
A protester wearing a yellow vest stands next to burning trash bins in a street during clashes with police at a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

 

The government had warned that far-right, anarchist and anticapitalist groups would likely infiltrate protests and many of the skirmishes saw police tackling gangs of hooded youths, some of them covering their faces with masks.

“It feels like order is being better maintained this week,” Jean-Francois Barnaba, one of the yellow vests’ unofficial spokesmen, told Reuters.

 

Protesters wearing yellow vests sit at the Place de la Bastille during a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
Protesters wearing yellow vests sit at the Place de la Bastille during a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. Message reads, “We can’t tighten our belts and drop our pants at the same time. Yellow vests forever”. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

 

“Last week the police were tear-gassing us indiscriminately. This time their actions are more targeted,” he added.

 

MACRON U-TURN

The government this week offered concessions to soothe public anger, including scrapping next year’s planned hikes to fuel taxes in the first major U-turn of Macron‘s presidency. It will cost the Treasury 4 billion euros ($4.5 billion).

 

A protester wearing a yellow vest burns a French flag at a barricade during clashes with police as part of a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris
A protester wearing a yellow vest burns a French flag at a barricade during clashes with police as part of a national day of protest by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

 

But protesters want Macron to go further to help hard-pressed households, including an increase to the minimum wage, lower taxes, higher salaries, cheaper energy, better retirement benefits and even Macron’s resignation.

“We want equality, we want to live, not survive,” said demonstrator Guillaume Le Grac, 28, who works in a slaughterhouse in Britanny.

Macron is expected to address the nation early next week to possibly further soften planned reforms and tax increases.

 

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, Sybille de la Hamaide, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Simon Carraud, Matthias Blamont, Marine Pennetier and Gus Trompiz; writing by Geert De Clercq and Richard Lough; editing by Gareth Jones and Jason Neely)

 

More photos ahead …

Advertisements
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23