French police arrest more than 100 people as Paris protests turn violent
Demonstrators run by a burning fire near the Arc de Triomphe during the protests. (AP: Thibault Camus)
More than 100 people have been arrested after protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend, building barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lighting fires and throwing rocks at officers.
- The protests have entered their third week and have become increasingly violent
- They initially began over increasing fuel tax hikes and have since expanded to include a broad range of demands related to the cost of living
- The French Prime Minister said more than 5,000 protesters were on and around the Champs-Elysees avenue
Protesters — including some wearing black hoods — made piles of large plywood planks and other materials in the middle of a street near the Arc de Triomphe and set the debris on fire.
Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to try and push the demonstrators back.
Some responded by throwing large rocks, while others removed the barriers protecting the national monument — the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — and gathered to sing the national anthem.
Graffiti sprayed onto the Arc de Triomphe wrote: “Yellow jackets will triumph”, in reference to the fluorescent vests protesters wear.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said some protesters attacked police forces “with a rarely seen violence”, leading to the arrest of at least 107 people.
Speaking at Paris police headquarters, Mr Philippe said more than 5,000 protesters were on and around the Champs-Elysees avenue.
Authorities said 5,000 police were deployed to try to contain the protests.
Paris police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert told French news broadcaster BFM TV that 10 police officers had received minor injuries.
Several hundreds of peaceful protesters passed through police checkpoints to reach the Champs-Elysees. They marched on the famed avenue behind a big banner saying: “Macron, stop taking us for stupid people.”
Access to the Champs-Elysees was closed to cars and was strictly monitored by police with identity checks and bag inspections.
So-called “yellow jacket” protesters are angry about President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership. (AP: Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Protests one of Macron’s biggest challenges
Protests initially broke out on November 17 over increasing fuel tax hikes and have since expanded to include a broad range of demands related to the country’s increasing cost of living.
Demonstrators are also furious about President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership, and in particular, his Government’s broader economic policies.
As part of his economic reforms earlier this year, the tax on fuel rose by approximately 30 cents per gallon of fuel to help minimise the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Macron has refused to remove the new tax.
Protests last weekend in the French capital also turned violent, as some of the 8,000-strong crowd torched barriers and plywood boards.
In response, police fired tear gas and used water cannons to push them back.
The ongoing protests are one of the largest and most sustained challenges Mr Macron has faced in his 18-month-old presidency.
His popularity had plunged to 20 per cent just prior to the protests and he has since been accused of being “out of touch” with ordinary people.
The clashes in Paris on Saturday were a stark contrast to protests in other French regions recently, where demonstrations and road blockades were largely peaceful.
Shopkeepers on the Champs-Elysees prepared for the possible new violence, bringing in workers to barricade boutique windows with boards.
Decorative iron grates, used last week in barricades, were removed from around trees and outdoor terraces dismantled.
All subway stations in and around the famous avenue were closed for security reasons, Paris public transport company RATP said.