Wednesday 18 September 2019

Hundreds arrested after Paris protest riot

A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital.

Masked demonstrators wearing yellow jackets appear through tear gas near the Champs-Elysees during a demonstration (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)
Masked demonstrators wearing yellow jackets appear through tear gas near the Champs-Elysees during a demonstration (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

By Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press

More than 100 people were injured and 412 have been arrested during France’s worst urban riot in years, police in Paris said.

The 133 people injured during Saturday’s protest included 23 police officers, they added.

Some 378 of the arrested have been put in police custody after the violence that tore apart parts of central Paris.

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Riot police officers take up their position near the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

A protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot in the French capital, as activists wearing yellow jackets torched cars, smashed windows, looted shops and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-coloured graffiti.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the Arc de Triomphe monument after returning from the G20 summit in Argentina, to pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier from the First World War whose tomb is under the monument.

He then headed to a nearby avenue and met with firefighters and police officers.

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Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with a firefighter (Thibault Camus/AP)

Mr Macron will hold an emergency meeting on security with the prime minister and the interior minister.

He has vowed that those responsible for the violence will pay for their actions.

By Sunday morning, Paris city employees were cleaning up the graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe.

One read “yellow jackets will triumph”, a reference to the fluorescent yellow vests that protesters are wearing to demand relief for France’s beleaguered workers.

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Workers prepare to clean graffiti reading ‘yellow jackets will triumph’ on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris (Thibault Camus/AP)

Some of Paris’s major avenues near the Arc de Triomphe and streets around the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue and the Tuileries garden were littered with piles of debris and burned cars.

Graffiti was also sprayed on many shopfronts and buildings.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Saturday’s violence was due to those who hijacked the protest, people who came “to loot, break and hit police forces”.

He was asked why thousands of French police could not prevent the damage, especially to the nation’s Arc de Triomphe monument.

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Demonstrators stand on top of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees during a demonstration (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

“Yesterday we made a choice … to protect people before material goods,” Mr Griveaux told French broadcaster BFM TV.

It was the third straight weekend of clashes in Paris involving activists dressed in the yellow vests of a new protest movement and the worst urban violence since at least 2005.

The scene in Paris contrasted sharply with protests elsewhere in France on Saturday that were mostly peaceful.

“It’s difficult to reach the end of the month. People work and pay a lot of taxes and we are fed up,” said Rabah Mendez, a protester who came to march peacefully in Paris.

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Demonstrators build a barricade near the Champs-Elysees during a demonstration (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

The demonstrators say Mr Macron’s government does not care about the problems of ordinary people.

The grassroots protests began on November 17 with motorists upset over a fuel tax hike, but now involve a broad range of demands related to France’s high cost of living.

“(Violence) has nothing to do with the peaceful expression of a legitimate anger” and “no cause justifies” attacks on police or pillaging shops and burning buildings, Mr Macron said in Buenos Aires.

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