Paris: Up to 1,000 people have been arrested, molotov cocktails have been thrown and at least 30 people are injured in Paris where protests have once again turned violent.
French riot police fired tear gas canisters at “yellow vest” protesters in central Paris on Saturday at the start of a planned demonstration against the high cost of living under President Emmanuel Macron.
A police spokeswoman told reporters there were about 1,500 protesters on the Champs Elysees boulevard and authorities said 211 people had been arrested after police found weapons such as hammers, baseball bats and metal petanque balls on them. Hundreds of protesters were milling around the Arc de Triomphe monument, which was defaced with graffiti last Saturday, when rioters also torched cars and looted shops.
“We will do all we can so that today can be a day without violence, so that the dialogue that we started this week can continue in the best possible circumstances,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on French television.
On Tuesday Philippe announced the government was suspending planned increases to fuel taxes for at least six months to help defuse weeks of protests, the first U-turn by Macron since he came to power 18 months ago.
About 89,000 police were deployed across France on Saturday, some 8,000 of them in Paris. “We have prepared a robust response,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told online news site Brut. He called on peaceful protesters not to get mixed up with “hooligans”. “The troublemakers can only be effective when they disguise themselves as yellow vests. Violence is never a good way to get what you want. Now is the time for discussion,” he said.
“If you are not aggressive, we will not be aggressive, a masked policeman said as a protester stuck yellow plastic flowers onto policemen.