French police struggle to contain violent protest in central Paris
Graffiti has been sprayed on the Arc de Triomphe as people angry about rising taxes took to the street.
French police are struggling to regain the upper hand against violent “yellow jacket” protesters in central Paris, resorting to water cannons to try to quell the demonstration.
The protesters who are angry over rising taxes and the high cost of living have sprayed graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe, torched at least one car, and broke through the metal fence of the Tuileries gardens.
Central Paris was locked down by Saturday, with all roads leading away from the Arc closed off as more police moved in.
Police said at least 224 people have been arrested and at least 80 people have been injured, including 16 officers.
French television showed police leading a shaken woman away from the protesters, and loud bangs rang out near the Champs Elysees where the violence was centred.
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.
While police fired tear gas and used water cannon near 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, which sits under the Arc. They posted near its eternal flame and sung the national anthem until they were dispersed by police.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted her “indignation” and “deep sadness,” saying that violence is “not acceptable.”
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged the protesters to go home in a tweet.
French deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said that 3,000 “troublemakers” were around the Champs-Elysees avenue, outside a perimeter secured by police.
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.
Mr Philippe added that he was “shocked” by violence near the Arc de Triomphe.
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.
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.
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.