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Clashes mar latest Paris 'yellow vest' protest as hundreds are arrested

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Clashes mar latest Paris 'yellow vest' protest as hundreds are arrested
Photos AFP
15:54 CET+01:00
UPDATED: Armoured vehicles rolled through central Paris on Saturday as riot police clashed with "yellow vest" demonstrators, who set fire to barricades and hurled rocks in the latest demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.

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LATEST news

  • Clashes continue in streets around Champs-Elysees
  • Riot try to disperse rioters with tear gas
  • Over 600 people arrested 
  • Yellow vests try to block Paris motorway
  • Many yellow vests protest peacefully on Champs Elysees

Here is the latest round-up from AFP

Armoured vehicles rolled through central Paris  on Saturday as riot police clashed with "yellow vest" demonstrators, who set fire to barricades and hurled rocks in the latest demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.

Shouts of "Macron, resign" mingled with tear gas on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was the scene of the worst rioting in Paris in decades last week.

Thick plumes of black smoke from fires could be seen rising high into the sky over the city.

Government calls for protesters to stay away from "Act IV" of a battle that began over fuel prices but ballooned into an anti-Macron revolt fell on deaf ears, with demonstrators making their way to Paris from across the country.

In the Grands Boulevards shopping district, masked protesters threw rocks at riot police and set fire to a barricade hastily assembled from stolen dustbins and Christmas trees.

Denis, a 30-year-old forklift driver from the Normandy port of Caen, travelled to Paris for the first time Saturday to make his voice heard after three weeks at the barricades in the provinces.

"I'm here for my 15-month-old son. I can't let him live in a country where the poor are exploited," he told AFP. 

The demonstrators began blockading roads over rising fuel taxes on November  17 but their list of demands have since grown, with many calling for the resignation of Macron, whom they accuse of favouring the rich.

Coordinated "yellow vest" protests were taking place across the country on Saturday, including on numerous motorways, causing havoc on the national road 
network.

Deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez said an estimated 31,000 people were  taking part in protests nationwide, including 8,000 in Paris -- similar numbers to last week. 

Around 700 people had been detained, most of them in Paris. 

Police carried out checks on people arriving at the capital's train stations, confiscating items that could be used as projectiles as well as surgical masks and goggles used to protect against the effects of tear gas.

Some of those arrested were carrying hammers, slingshots and rocks.

But many of the demonstrators insisted they wanted no violence.

Parts of the city centre were on effective lockdown, with shops, museums, the Eiffel Tower and many metro stations closed. Top-flight football matches and concerts were cancelled.

Last weekend's violence, which saw some 200 cars torched and the Arc de Triomphe vandalised, shook France and plunged Macron's government into its deepest crisis so far.

"These past three weeks have produced a monster that its creators no longer control," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Friday, vowing "zero  tolerance" towards those aiming to wreak further destruction.

'We await Mr Macron'

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests who urged people not to join the protests.

A spokesman from the movement, Christophe Chalencon, said Philippe had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president".

"Now we await Mr Macron. I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and that he will take strong decisions," he said.

Philippe said some 89,000 police had been mobilised across France on Saturday, including 8,000 police in Paris, where a dozen armoured vehicles were being deployed for the first time in decades.

Shops around the Champs-Elysees boarded up their windows and emptied them of merchandise on Friday, while the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay and other museums were shut.

Department stores were also closed due to the risk of looting on what would normally be a busy shopping weekend in the run-up to Christmas.

Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world's most visited cities. 

The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid crowds", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens to postpone any planned visits.

 

2.30pm - Shops windows smashed on the Champs-Elysees

Some demonstrators have started ripping off the wooden planks used to board up shops along the iconic avenue, including the Drugstore Publicis, which was looted and vandalised during France's World Cup win celebrations.

The boards are being used as a barricade in the middle of the avenue, BFMTV reported. Several fires have also been lit.

A phone shop is also being looted. Police respond with tear gas as firefighters try to put out the flames.  

2.15pm - Trump tweets about Paris protests

A typically smug response by US President Donald Trump to events in Paris.  

 

1.45pm - Violence kicks off on Paris's Grands Boulevards

Violence is erupting on the capital's Grands Boulevards, with police using water cannons as well as tear gas to repel the most disruptive protesters.
 
The Local France's Ben McPartland says members of the Black Boc anti-capitalist movement are causing most of the trouble. Armoured vehicles are now on the move.
 
 
 

1.30pm - 575 arrests but no major incidents 

Paris police have announced that 575 arrests had been made so far this Saturday in the capital. 361 of the detainees have been taken into custody.

Despite some tensions and violent clashes on the Champs-Elysees, as well as yellow vest attempts to block the Porte Maillot dual carriageway, no major incident has yet been reported in the capital.

 Roughly 31,000 yellow vests have taken to the streets of French cities this Saturday, according to figures provided by the Ministry of the Interior on France 2.

In Paris the number of protesters has reached 8,000. 

12.40pm - "Tensions keep rising and falling"

The Local's Ben McPartland, who has been on Champs-Elysees all morning, said: "For the most part its been fairly calm except for a flashpoint towards the top of the avenue.

"There have been volleys of tear gas thrown to push protesters back and missiles thrown at police by a minority of protesters.

"Tensions have been rising and falling and they could rise again throughout the day.

"Most protesters are standing and talking and have told me about familiar grievances: Taxes that leave them without enough money at the end of the month. A president who only cares about the rich and treats the lower class like idiots.

"They say they aren't just moaning French people demanding more and more, instead they argue that they're fighting for their country and their rights.

"Most of those who've come are from outside Paris or from the suburbs of the capital. They sing the national anthem and chant for Macron to resign."

12 noon - Yellow vest leader arrested in Grenoble, more arrests in Paris

Grenoble's yellow vest leader Julien Terrier has been arrested in his city for organising an unauthorised demo, according to the prefecture of Isère. Some fifteen other people have also been arrested in Grenoble. 

The number of arrests in Paris currently stands at 514, with 271 people remanded in custody. Police continue to use tear gas to disperse violent protesters. 

11.30am - 481 people arrested in Paris, 211 remanded in custody

French Interior Minister Edouard Philippe tells journalists that 481 people have so far been arrested and 211 have been remanded in custody as violence between the 'yellow vests' and police starts to take hold of Saturday's protests in Paris. 

By the same time during last Saturday's protest there had been 412 arrests.

11.15am - The Local asks 'yellow vests' why they are protesting

The Local France's Editor Ben McPartland asks ordinary French people why they've joined the gilets jaunes protest in Paris this Saturday. 

11am - Yellow vests trying to block traffic on Paris's Porte Maillot dual carriageway 

A group of yellow vests who were stopped from reaching Paris's Place de l'Etoile because they refused to take off their protective gear (helmets, masks and safety goggles) are now blocking traffic on the Parisian péripherique road. Police are in the process of dispersing the group. 

10.30am - Tear gas fired at yellow vests near the Champs-Elysees

Police have used tear gas for the first time this Saturday to disperse a crowd of yellow vests near the the Champs-Elysées. Arrests are now up to 354. 

10.15am - More gilets jaunes, more arrests 

The number of people detained by French police forces continues to rise. According to Le Parisien and BFMTV, the figure now stands at 343.

Approximately 1,000 people have now gathered in front of the security perimeter facing the Arc de Triomphe. 

9.30am - arrests rise to 320

According to French news channel BFMTV, the total number of arrests has risen to 320. Only six arrests had been carried out by the same time last Saturday, suggesting French police have changed their tactics. 

The Local France's Editor Ben McPartland is reporting live from the Champs-Élysées:

Thirty-two people have been remanded in custody. 

Despite the 8,000 police officers deployed in central Paris, hundreds of yellow vests have already descended on the Champs-Élysées, chanting and carrying banners with slogans calling for Macron to resign. 

9am - 278 arrests made

Paris was on lockdown with major monuments and department stores shut and some 8,000 police on the streets following the worst rioting in the capital in decades last weekend.

Major security measures in place ahead of fresh "yellow vest" protests which authorities fear could turn violent for a second weekend in a row.

Shops, museums, metro stations and the Tour Eiffel were due to close, while  top-flight football matches and music shows were cancelled.

The French capital experienced its worst riots in decades last weekend, in scenes that shook the country and plunged President Emmanuel Macron's government into its deepest crisis so far.

France's interior minister Christophe Castaner said he expected "only a few  thousand people" to descend on the capital after the 8,000 protesters counted last weekend, "but among them are ultraviolent individuals".

"These past three weeks have seen the birth of a monster that has escaped its creators," he said, adding that a "large-scale" security operation would  be launched Saturday. 

He vowed "zero tolerance" towards those aiming to wreak further destruction and mayhem, after dozens of vehicles were torched, shops looted and the Arc de Triomphe war memorial was wrecked last Saturday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests who have urged people not to join the protests.

After the meeting a movement spokesman, Christophe Chalencon, said the premier had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president".

"Now we await Mr Macron. I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and that he will take strong decisions," he said.

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