Rioting in Paris: What went wrong and how will Macron respond now?

The Local/AFP
The Local/AFP - [email protected]
Rioting in Paris: What went wrong and how will Macron respond now?

The French government has admitted its security measures had been "insufficient" to stem an arson and looting rampage by black-clad anarchists during Act 18 of the "yellow vest" protests along the famous Champs-Elysees in Paris on Saturday. So, what happens now?


Police appeared overwhelmed Saturday as a hardcore of black-clad protesters along with a hardened fringe of yellow vests ran amok on the Champs-Elysées avenue, with around 80 shops and businesses vandalised.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe acknowledged on Sunday there had been security "flaws" which needed to be rectified.
President Emmanuel Macron, who cut short a skiing trip over the violence, and the French government are set to come up with a series of measures to prevent the same situation from happening again. 
But can anything be done to prevent the looting and burning?
Here's what you need to know. 

ANALYSIS: The burning of the Champs Elysées does not mark a new beginning more like a last hoorahPhoto: AFP

What happened?
Some 80 shops and businesses on the Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris were vandalised this weekend when "yellow vest" protesters went on the rampage, with about 20 looted or torched, retailers said on Sunday.
Saturday's demonstrations were characterised by a sharp increase in violence after weeks of dwindling turnout, with hooded protesters looting and torching shops along the famed avenue.
It was the 18th consecutive weekend of demonstrations which began in mid-November as a protest against fuel price hikes but have since morphed into a potent anti-government movement.
The demonstrators also set fire to a bank situated on the ground floor of an apartment building, which was engulfed by flames. 
The fire service evacuated the residents and extinguished the blaze. Eleven people, including two fire fighters, suffered minor injuries, the fire service told AFP.
A mother of four children, including a nine-month-old baby, told AFP they escaped via the stairs after seeing the fire from their window.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner in a tweet accused the arsonists of being "neither demonstrators, nor trouble-makers" but "murderers" and French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a skiing trip  in the Pyrenees to return to Paris for a crisis meeting.
He vowed to take "strong decisions" to prevent further violence, following the emergency talks held at the interior ministry late Saturday.
VIDEOS: Champs-Elysees' designer stores and restaurants looted and burned
Photo: AFP
What went wrong?
Essentially, the security forces deployed to maintain order on Saturday were not prepared for the planned violence that was coming their way and from 11 am on Saturday, the police seemed completely overwhelmed by the situation on the Champs-Elysees.
The authorities had underestimated the number of violent participants in the crowd, with the police expecting around 500 troublemakers when in fact there were around three times as many, according to official estimates. 
Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez admitted on RTL radio on Monday that police "were less aggressive, less reactive than usual" over the weekend, promising a review of the instructions given to officers and their deployment.
"Analysis of yesterday's events highlights that the measures taken were insufficient to contain the violence and prevent wrongdoing" by the rioters, the prime minister's office said on Sunday.
Police units that were stationed in the north of the capital were moved to the centre of the city at around midday to try and regain control of the situation, security specialist Guillaume Farde told BFM TV.
Police unions also complained about the new bullets for the controversial defence ball launchers, known by the French abbreviation LBDs, which normally shoot 40-millimeter rubber projectiles, were not effective enough.
"We were given some 'marshmallow' ammunition that did not go far enough, if we had 'flashballs' (LBDs) with ammunition that allowed us to hold the individuals at about 30 meters, maybe the restaurant Fouquet's would not have burned," said Loïc Lecouplier from the Alliance police union.
Since Saturday's events, the unions have argued that the police were under-equipped, giving the advantage to the troublemakers. 
"You have to take responsibility and engage, with the possibility that  people will get hurt," said Frederic Lagache of the Alliance police union.
 'What were the police doing?': French government faces criticism
Photo: AFP
What is the government going to do about it?
The French prime minister is set to meet Macron on Monday to propose solutions to the situation, with the president making it clear that he wants to hit back hard after Saturday's events.
"Now it's over. I insist that this type of scene can not be repeated, especially on this avenue," said the French president.
So far nothing concrete has been announced however it looks like measures are likely to be tough and it has been mooted that there could even be a ban on demonstrations on the Champs-Elysees.
But the government has tried this in the run up to Christmas, and it failed to prevent violence.
"We will make announcements ... when they are decided. It needs a bit of work, and should not be done hastily," the government announced Sunday night to explain the silence of Édouard Philippe and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner after a crisis meeting.
According to Le Parisien, other areas of the French capital could also be blocked off by police units and no doubt more police will be deployed across the city. 
And it won't come as a surprise that there is a lot of pressure on the French government, amid accusations of mishandling the situation, to make sure their measures go far enough. 
Deputy mayor of Versailles for the right-wing Les Republicains party said on Sunday that "this government has failed".
Meanwhile Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has been summoned to appear before the French Senate on Tuesday along with Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, to explain the violence and the economic consequences.


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