Paris ‘under control’ after violence on yellow vest anniversary

Paris is now 'perfectly under control' said its police chief after protesters smashed windows, destroyed bus shelters and set cars alight on the one-year anniversary of the 'yellow vest' protests.

Paris 'under control' after violence on yellow vest anniversary
Photos: AFP


  • Paris police report 105 arrests
  • Main clashes between police and protesters at Place d'Italie
  • Firefighters attacked as they try to extinguish flames
  • Paris bar customers teargassed
  • Cars, motorbikes and dustbins set alight by protesters
  • HSBC bank branch and 13th's town hall vandalised 
  • Masked men storm Chatalet les Halles shopping centre.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement has described the situation in Paris as 'perfectly under control' after earlier violent scenes in which a small group of black-clad protesters ran amok in the Place d'Italie.

In spite of his confidence, however, there were still sporadic outbreaks of trouble as the evening went on, including a group of masked black-clad men who invaded the Chatalet les Halles shopping centre and let off some kind of small explosives.



Two big marches were planned in Paris – and hundreds more actions around France – to mark one year since the start of the 'yellow vest' protesters.


But the march that was supposed to set off from Place d'Italie in the 13th arondissement was called off after a group of demonstrators – mostly young men dressed in black and masked – gathered in the square and smashed up the street furniture and set cars alight.

Police say they were contained in the square and the rest of Paris has been largely peaceful.

An attempt to create a blockade on the ringroad around Paris was broken up by police.

In a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Paris police chief Didier Lallement said: “Even if the images are spectacular on Place d'Italie, the fact remains that the rest of Paris is calm. 

“Fortunately, there is no destruction in other parts of Paris.”

He said that police had opted to contain the vandals in Place d'Italie.  A total of 61 arrests had been made by 3pm, but police said they would be making more after studying video footage from the square.

He added that there were further protests planned for Sunday and that anyone who attempted to cause trouble there would be dealt with by “great firmness” by police.

An HSBC branch has been vandalised by hooded protesters who smashed the bank's glass façade. The same has happened to 13th's town hall, as this tweet by the district's mayor Jérôme Coumet shows.

Footage posted on social media also shows how customers at a Parisian bar had to rush out after a teargas canister was thrown inside the establishment. One client told Le Parisien that the culprit was “not a cop, it was a guy dressed all in black who kicked the tear gas grenade into the bar”.

Numbers attending the protests and levels of violence have sharply diminished in recent months from the height of the movement,which began on November 17 last year with a giant Paris protest that drew almost 300,000 people.

Around France dozens of smaller actions have been ongoing to mark the anniversary, which seem to have been largely peaceful.

But the yellow vests want the actions on Saturday – their traditional day for protests – and also Sunday – the anniversary day – to show President Emmanuel Macron they remain a force to be reckoned with.

“We're here even if Macron doesn't like it” demonstrators chanted as they arrived on the outskirts of Paris Saturday, with others singing “Happy Birthday”.

Several metro stations were closed in the capital and police were deployed in numbers, especially along the Champs-Elysees, which was again closed off to demonstrators following the ransacking of shops that followed a protest last March.

France has a long tradition of violent protest, but the ferocity of last winter's demonstrations and allegations of police brutality shocked the country.

Officials said the magnitude of the weekend protests is far from certain but deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez noted a “more pronounced interest” than in previous weeks, and police would plan their deployment accordingly.

“There will be a significant mobilisation but not on the scale we saw in December and January at a national level,” said a French security source, asking not to be identified by name.

“We are expecting a difficult Saturday,” said the source, noting that protesters “mobilise at the last minute in a bid to take us by surprise”.

'Still in the street'

A poll by the Elabe institute published Wednesday said 55 percent of French people support or have sympathy for the yellow vests, although 63 percent said they do not want the protests to begin in earnest again.

The most prominent figures in the movement, which has explicitly shunned any formal leadership structure,acknowledge the declining numbers but say the authorities' response has not been sufficient.

“We shouldn't still need be on the street one year on,” said Priscillia Ludosky, an entrepreneur whose online petition against high fuel prices helped kick off the movement.

“It's unfortunate there has been no political response, but also to see that we are slightly lacking energy in terms of mobilisation,” she told the Regards news site.

The yellow vests — named for the glow-in-the-dark waistcoats all French drivers must carry in their cars — posed the biggest challenge to Macron since he swept to power in 2017 on the back of promises of sweeping change.

They accused Macron of being deaf to the troubles of ordinary French people as he embarked on a major programme aimed at modernising the country.

 'Cry of suffering'

Initially taken aback by the size and intensity of the movement, Macron offered billions of euros in state aid and tax breaks — and scrapped a planned fuel tax hike — while embarking on a “Great National Debate” at town halls nationwide.

He has also tried to soften his sometimes abrasive style. Just weeks before the protests erupted, Macron told a 25-year-old man looking for a job in Paris that “if I crossed the street I'd find you one”.

“The yellow vests opened our eyes to the reality for millions of people,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday, adding that the government wanted to respond to this “cry of suffering”.

Apart from Paris, rallies are expected in cities including Bordeaux, Lille and Toulouse, which have often attracted thousands of people.

The next major street challenge to Macron, however, may not come from the weekend's protests but a strike called by unions on December 5 to rally against his planned pension reforms.

Member comments

  1. These morons got what they wanted last year at great cost to the taxpayer. Now it’s just an excuse for violence and vandalism.

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What happened to the rioters who trashed the Arc de Triomphe during yellow vest violence?

A court in France has finally handed out sentences to some of those involved in the vandalism and theft at the Arc de Triomphe in December 2018 - when 'yellow vest' violence in Paris shocked the world.

What happened to the rioters who trashed the Arc de Triomphe during yellow vest violence?
'Yellow vest' protesters clash with police by the Arc de Triomphe on December 1st 2018 in Paris. Photo: Abdulmonam EASSA / AFP

The French court on Thursday sentenced eight people to suspended jail terms and community service for taking part in one of the most violent episodes of the anti-government ‘yellow vest’ protests that rocked France two years ago.

A total of nine stood trial this week for the incident, but one of them, a former soldier, was cleared for lack of evidence, presiding judge Sonia Lumbroso said at the verdict.

The court ruled the suspects were neither the instigators nor the main culprits of the vandalism and looting around the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, when scenes of destruction and fierce clashes with police made global headlines.

Most of them had no criminal records.

They were sentenced to 70 hours of community service for entering the monument, but those also found guilty of stealing items such as postcards, Arc de Triomphe models or miniature Eiffel Towers from the gift shop, were fined €100 for theft.

A ‘yellow vest’ protester arrives at the courthouse in Paris to attend the trial of ten people on charge of destruction and theft around the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris. Photo: Thomas COEX / AFP

One of the group, a man who was caught on camera trying to break down a door with a fire extinguisher, was handed the most severe sentence, a suspended prison term of eight months.

Dozens of cars were set on fire and businesses trashed all along the celebrated Champs-Elysées avenue on December 1st, 2018, the third Saturday of mass demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.

READ ALSO: Macron risks losing support from left against Le Pen in French presidential election

He was accused of ignoring the plight of struggling French families and after months of protests he abandoned a planned fuel tax hike and raised spending on the lowest earners.

The protesters had already skirmished with security forces at earlier rallies, but police were unprepared for the rioting that engulfed the capital just a few weeks before Christmas.

Despite firing volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets, the officers were forced to abandon their positions around the Arc de Triomphe, which honours France’s war dead.

Protesters snuffed out the eternal flame over the tomb of an unknown World War I soldier and spray-painted the stone walls with graffiti including “the yellow vests will triumph”.

Others forced their way inside the arch, ransacking the gift shop and damaging scores of artworks, causing damage that cost €1.2 million to repair.

READ ALSO: Is France’s ‘yellow vest’ movement really on its way back?