Protestors looted and torched shops on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Saturday, the 18th straight weekend of “yellow vest” demonstrations in the country.
A menswear store and a restaurant had their windows smashed, AFP reported. The demonstrators also set fire to a bank on the ground floor of an apartment building. Firefighters evacuated the residents of the building before putting out the blaze. At least 11 people, including two firefighters, suffered minor injuries.
The police used tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse demonstrators at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe war memorial. The police arrested 240 demonstrators by Saturday evening, and estimated there were around 10,000 such protestors nationwide, The Guardian reported.
“Macron, we’re coming to get you at home,” some of the protesters chanted, referring to the president’s palace. As many as 42 protestors and 17 police officers were injured during Saturday’s demonstrations.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner claimed in a tweet that the protestors were “neither demonstrators, nor trouble-makers” but “murderers”. “There are a number of people who have come just to smash things,” Castaner said. He said that some 1,500 “ultra violent” activists infiltrated the crowd of “between 7,000 and 8,000”.
French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a ski trip to the Pyrenees. “We are attached to constitutional rights, but we’ve got people who through all means quite simply want to make a wreck of the republic, to break things and destroy, running the risk of getting people killed,” Macron told ministers. “I want us to very precisely analyse things and as quickly as possible take strong, complementary decisions so this doesn’t happen again.”
The protests began in November last year, against the new eco-tax on petrol and diesel, and falling purchasing power. Promises by Macron to raise worker pay and cut taxes have not quelled the French demonstrators’ anger.