Seven weeks into an anti-government rebellion marked by weekly clashes in Paris and other French cities, Philippe said the government would back a “new law punishing those who do not respect the requirement to declare (protests), those who take part in unauthorised demonstrations and those who arrive at demonstrations wearing face masks.”
He also announced plans to ban known “troublemakers” from taking part in demonstrations, in the same way known football hooligans in the past had been banned from stadiums.
“That measure worked well,” he said, referring to the stadium ban.
In future, Philippe said, the onus would be on “the troublemakers, and not taxpayers, to pay for the damage caused” to businesses and property during the protests, which began peacefully in mid-November over taxes but quickly became radicalised.
Many of the protesters are demanding that President Emmanuel Macron resign — demands dismissed as undemocratic by the government.
On Saturday, demonstrators used a construction site vehicle to smash open the doors of a government building. A former professional boxer was also caught on camera beating up police officers.
“Those who question our institutions will not have the last word,” Philippe said, announcing plans to deploy 80,000 security force members nationwide for the next 'yellow vest' demonstration expected at the weekend.
The images of renewed violence and destruction in Paris on Saturday underscored the difficulty of containing a leaderless movement that appeared to be petering out at the end of 2018 but has since gained new momentum.
Around 50,000 “yellow vest” protesters took to the streets again on Saturday to denounce Macron's policies, call for his resignation or demand more of a say in national law-making.
The police at times appeared defenceless, with former heavyweight fighter Christophe Dettinger, 37, filmed landing blows on officers guarding a bridge leading to the National Assembly.
Dettinger, known in the ring as “The Gypsy From Massy”, a town near Paris, turned himself into police in the capital on Monday morning.
In a video posted on YouTube on Sunday he described himself as an “ordinary citizen” acting out of anger with what he called the repressive tactics of the police.
“I am a yellow vest. I have the anger of the people in me,” he said.
Images of a policeman beating several protesters in the southern city of Toulon on Saturday were also widely condemned.
The police officer — a commander who was granted France's highest award, the Legion d'Honneur, on January 1 — was referred to investigators after appearing to punch one protester in the face several times.