Violence Spikes on 18th Week of Yellow Vest Protests in France
The renewed violence is reminiscent of December’s rallies and might signal a resurgence of the Yellow Vests’ movement.
Looting and violent clashes with the riot police have marked the 18th Saturday of protests by the Yellow Vests’ movement in France’s capital Paris despite the fact that the number of demonstrators has dwindled.
Masked protesters hurled stones at the riot police and looted stores on the Champs-Elysees Avenue on Saturday.
Just like in November 2018, at the onset of the Yellow Vests’ protests, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris became the focal point of the 18th weekly rally, AFP and France24 report.
The most radical protesters quickly built burning barricades, a flashback to the previous most violent Yellow Vest rallies in France’s capital back in December.
Despite the use of water cannons and tear gas, the riot police initially could not disperse them.
The Yellow Vests’ movement began in November as a protest against the planned increase of fuel taxes in France but swiftly evolved into a socially motivated anti-government riot, especially targeting French President Emmanuel Macron who is seen by the protesters as defending the interests of high finance.
“Macron, we’re coming to get you at home,” chanted some of the protesters, referring to the presidential palace near the Champs-Elysees.
Saturday’s rally in Paris and other places across France coincided with the end of the two months of public debates in which Macron had invited the voters to voice their grievances and suggest policy measures.
However, many Yellow Vests appeared to disregard the debates as purely a measure to subvert their protest movement rather than enact real change.
“[I have ordered the police to] react with the greatest firmness to these unacceptable attacks,” said France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
He blamed the spiking violence on “professional trouble-makers” who had “infiltrated” Saturday’s Yellow Vests’ march.
More than 5,000 police officers were deployed throughout downtown Paris for Saturday’s Yellow Vests’ rally, and a total of 31 protesters were arrested by mid-morning.
Last weekend, fewer than 30,000 protesters were estimated to have taken part in the Yellow Vest protests across France, a tenfold decrease from the November 17 number.
Yet, Saturday’s violent demonstration in Paris might signal a resurgence of the protest movement.
(Banner image: Video grab from France24)