Fire and tear gas in Paris as ‘yellow vest’ protests turn violent
Tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon have been fired in central Paris as protests over fuel price hikes and the cost of living turned violent.
Police said at least 224 people were arrested in the French capital and 92 injured – including some officers.
The area around the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe was a key flashpoint.
Roads leading to the famous monument were closed and some protesters hurled rocks, set vehicles and rubbish bins on fire and put up barricades.
Some people scaled the arch, and at one point several hundred people sat underneath shouting “Macron Resign!”
French TV showed young men wearing scarves and gas masks as some carried a banner reading: “The people are desperate, Kill the bourgeois.”
There are fears that far-left and far-right groups may have infiltrated the protests and fuelled the violence.
President Macron later said there were 5,500 protesters in the capital and about 75,000 in total around the country.
At least 19 Metro stations were also shut, reported France’s BFM TV, and stores including the famous Galeries Lafayette closed as a precaution.
Police said protesters stole an assault rifle from a police vehicle in Paris, Reuters news agency reported on Saturday evening – but that has so far not been confirmed.
Demonstrators wore yellow vests – “gilets jaunes” – of the kind French people are obliged to carry in their cars – and said President Macron was paying the price for refusing to budge on a green tax on diesel – which has increased prices for millions of drivers.
The protests – which began two weeks ago – have widened from to cover the general discontent many people have with Mr Macron, who they accuse of being out of touch with working-class people.
Mr Macron said those involved in the violence would be “held responsible for their acts” and that the disorder had “nothing to do with the peaceful expression of a legitimate anger”.
“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,” Mr Macron told a news conference at the G20 in Buenos Aires.
He said he would meet with ministers when he returns to Paris to discuss how to respond.
Christophe Castaner, the country’s interior minister, called the scenes in Paris “intolerable”.
“The clear will to attack our police forces, our country’s symbols, is an insult to the Republic,” he tweeted.
The clashes in the capital contrasted with demonstrations in other French regions, where demonstrations and road blockades were largely peaceful.