Dozens arrested as French protesters clash with police
Demonstrations are being held across the country over the general cost of living.
Dozens of people have been arrested after protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend.
Pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers on Saturday.
Protesters, including some wearing black hoodies, piled up large plywood planks and other material in the middle of a street near the Arc de Triomphe, before setting the debris on fire.
Police fired tear gas and used water cannon to try to push back the protesters who gathered around the Arc. Some demonstrators responded by throwing large rocks.
Others removed the barriers protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War, under the monument, to pose near its eternal flame and sing the national anthem. They were then dispersed by police.
French deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said that 3,000 “troublemakers” were around the Champs-Elysees avenue, outside a perimeter secured by police.
Paris police said at least 81 people have been arrested. Mr Nunez said 5,000 officers were deployed in Paris to try to contain the protests.
French prime minister Edouard Philippe said some protesters have attacked police officers.
He said “some determined, equipped individuals” had gathered to “provoke” clashes with police. At least 10 officers were slightly injured.
Mr Philippe added that he was “shocked” by violence near the Arc de Triomphe, with graffiti sprayed onto the monument.
He said that authorities are “determined to allow peaceful protests”, but will give “no excuse to those coming to make trouble”.
Several hundred peaceful protesters, called “yellow jackets” on account of the fluorescent vests they wear, passed through police checkpoints to reach the Champs-Elysees.
They marched on the famed avenue behind a big banner which read: “Macron, stop taking us for stupid people”.
In addition to rising taxes, demonstrators are furious about President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership. A demonstration last weekend in Paris also turned violent.
Access to the Champs-Elysee was closed to cars and strictly monitored by police with identity checks and bag inspections.
The clashes in Paris contrasted with protests in other French regions, where demonstrations and road blockades were largely peaceful.
The protests, which began with motorists demonstrating against a fuel tax hike, now involve a broad range of demands related to the country’s high cost of living.
Shopkeepers on the Champs-Elysees have prepared for 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.
Last week, French authorities said 8,000 people demonstrated on the Champs-Elysees. Some of the protesters torched barriers and plywood boards. Police fired tear gas and water cannon to push back angry demonstrators.
Since the protests kicked off on November 17, two people have been killed and hundreds injured in accidents stemming from the protests, and hundreds of protesters and police have been injured.