412 arrested in Paris protests

By AFP
Published: December 3, 2018
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Demonstrators walk near the Arc de Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. PHOTO:AFP

Demonstrators walk near the Arc de Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. PHOTO:AFP

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday surveyed the damage from a day of riots across Paris and led a crisis meeting that ended with a call for further talks with anti-government activists who have staged two weeks of protests.

Macron met with the prime minister, interior minister and top security service officials to forge a response to the violence that left hundreds injured nationwide.

Unrest in Paris forces closure of at least 19 metro stations

The government has not ruled out imposing a state of emergency to combat the protests, which began over fuel taxes but have grown into wider anger over Macron’s agenda.

Macron also saw the wreckage of burnt-out cars and damaged buildings from rioting at other sites, where he praised the police but was also booed by sections of the crowd.

A demonstrator holds a French flag as he walks amid the tear gas during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. PHOTO:AFP

A demonstrator holds a French flag as he walks amid the tear gas during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. PHOTO:AFP

Paris police said 412 people were arrested on Saturday during the worst clashes for years in the capital and 378 remained in custody.

Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech said he “deplored” violence which he added had been of “unprecedented seriousness” and “on a level not seen in decades.”

A total of 263 people were injured nationwide, with 133 injured in the capital, including 23 members of the security forces.

“I will never accept violence,” Macron said. “No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, that businesses are plundered, that passers-by or journalists are threatened or that the Arc du Triomphe is defiled.”

The violence has caused deep concern in the French business community which claims it has already lost billions of euros and is set to attend a meeting at the Economy ministry on Monday.

Demonstrators clash with riot police at the Arc de Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. PHOTO:AFP

Demonstrators clash with riot police at the Arc de Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. PHOTO:AFP

“Our worse fears have been confirmed: this is the third consecutive weekend of (protest) blockades which amounts to a major loss for the whole business community,” Jacques Creyssel, representative of a federation of retail businesses, told AFP.

Overnight a motorist died after crashing a van into traffic which had built up due to a “yellow vest” demo in Arles, southern France, a local prosecutor said Sunday. Three people have now died in incidents linked to the protests.

The anti-government protests that have swept France were sparked initially by a rise in taxes on diesel.

In Paris on Sunday as groups of workers set about cleaning up the mess from the previous day, the scale of the destruction became clear.

Around famous areas including the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre museum, the Opera and Place Vendome, smashed shop windows, broken glass and the occasional burned-out car were testament to the violence.

Dozens of cars were torched by the gangs of rioters, some of whom wore gas masks and ski goggles to lessen the effects of tear gas which was fired continually by police.

One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down one of the huge iron gates of the Tuileries garden by the Louvre, crushing several people.

Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set alight, the interior ministry said.

At the Arc de Triomphe graffiti had been daubed, with one slogan saying: “The yellow vests will win.”

French President Emmanuel Macron flanked by ministers walks in a street of Paris on December 2, 2018, a day after clashes. PHOTO:AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron flanked by ministers walks in a street of Paris on December 2, 2018, a day after clashes. PHOTO:AFP

Some 136,000 demonstrators, most of them peaceful, were counted across the country on Saturday, the interior ministry said Sunday.

The figure was well below the first day of protests on November 17, which attracted around 282,000 people, and also down on the revised figure of 166,000 who turned out last Saturday.

Interior Minister Castaner attributed the violence to “specialists in destruction”.

Referring to the possibility of imposing a state of emergency — a demand made by the police union Alliance — Castaner declared: “Nothing is taboo for me. I am prepared to examine everything.”

Over the last few weeks, the “yellow vest” movement has morphed into a broad opposition front to Macron, 40, a pro-business centrist elected in May 2017.

Violent anarchist and far-right groups have infiltrated it and are thought to be behind Saturday’s clashes.

Macron faces a dilemma in how to respond, not least because the “yellow vests” are a grassroots movement with no formal leaders and a wide range of demands.

Watch: Viral video of assault on Paris woman sparks probe

“We have said that we won’t change course. Because the course is good,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told BFM television defiantly on Sunday morning.

“It’s been 30 years that people change course every 18 months,” he added, referring to Macron’s predecessors who have often caved in to pressure from French street protests.

Jacline Mouraud, one of the protest movement’s prime instigators over social media forums, told AFP that scrapping the fuel tax was a “prerequisite for any discussion” with the government.

Macron insists the taxes are needed to fund the country’s transition to a low-emission economy.

Despite the violence, opinion polls suggest that two in three French people back the protests.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Dec 3, 2018 - 8:42PM

    Arrests will not solve any problem. EM should ask himself WHY are they revolting . where is he going wrong ? Hes usually seen hobnobbing with the super rich or sharing laughs with DT or MBS . He needs to curb all that .Recommend

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