France to consider imposing state of emergency to curb violent protests
A police car burns after clashes between police and protesters, in Marseille, southern France. ( AP: Claude Paris)
France will consider imposing a state of emergency to prevent a recurrence of some of the worst civil unrest in more than a decade, with hundreds arrested.
- Police have arrested hundreds of people in widespread protests against petrol prices and Macron’s leadership
- The “yellow vests” have been demonstrating since November 17 and were fuelled by social media
- Vehicles and buildings have been set ablaze from Paris to Marseille
Paris police say 133 people were injured and 412 had been arrested during the urban riot.
The authorities were caught off guard by the escalation in violence after two weeks of nationwide protests against fuel taxes and living costs, known as the “yellow vest” movement after fluorescent jackets kept in all vehicles in France.
Groups of young men with faces masked, some carrying metal bars and axes, rioted on the streets of central Paris, setting a dozen vehicles ablaze and torching buildings.
President Emmanuel Macron will hold an emergency meeting with the Prime Minister and Interior Minister to discuss the riots and how to begin a dialogue with the protest movement, which has no real structure or leadership.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux urged peaceful protesters to come to the negotiating table.
“We have to think about the measures that can be taken so that these incidents don’t happen again,” Mr Griveaux told Europe 1 radio.
Demonstrators run by a burning fire near the Arc de Triomphe during the protests. (AP: Thibault Camus)
When asked about imposing a state of emergency, Mr Griveaux said it would be among the options considered in the emergency meeting.
“It is out of the question that each weekend becomes a meeting or ritual for violence.”
Protests began on November 17 and quickly grew thanks to social media, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots.
French authorities are keen to avoid a recurrence of the rioting on the streets of central Paris. (AP: Claude Paris)
Authorities said violent groups from the far right and far left as well as “thugs” from the suburbs had infiltrated the yellow vests movement in Paris, although Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said most of those arrested were regular protesters who had been egged on by fringe groups.
Speaking on BFM TV, Mr Castaner said the authorities had put all security measures in place to prevent the violence, but that they had faced extremely violent, organised and determined groups.
So-called “yellow jacket” protesters are angry about President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership. (AP: Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
He did however say the government had made a mistake in how it communicated its plans to move away from oil dependence, the policy which led to fuel tax hikes.
Paul Marra, a yellow vest activist in Marseille, told BFM TV that the government was to blame for the violence across the country.
“We condemn what happened, but it was inevitable,” he said.
“The violence started from the top. The biggest thug is the state through its inaction.”