'Yellow Vest' Protestors Set France Ablaze on 18th Straight Weekend of Demonstrations

Postado Março 17, 2019

Protest organizers had hoped to make a splash Saturday, which marks the 4-month anniversary of the yellow vest movement, which started November 17, and the end of the "Great Debate" that the French president organized to respond to protesters' concerns about sinking living standards, stagnant wages and high unemployment.

On Saturday, the police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to try repel protesters who gathered at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe war memorial, which was sacked by protesters on December 1.

The resurgent violence came as protesters are seeking to breathe new life into a movement that seemed to be fizzling, and get attention from French leaders and media whom they see as underplaying their economic justice cause and favouring the elite. Two newspaper kiosks were also set ablaze by the protestors. Firefighters had to rescue a mother and her child as the fire threatened to engulf their floor.

The Bank Tarneaud branch was located near Champs Elysees, the central axe of the weekly protests.

Demonstrators also targeted symbols of the luxury industry, as shops including brands Hugo Boss and Lacoste were smashed up and pillaged, and mannequins thrown out of the broken windows.

Protesters threw smoke bombs and cobblestones at officers near the up-market Champs-Elysees avenue.

A posh eatery called Fouquet's, which is associated with politicians and celebrities, was vandalised and set on fire. A vehicle burned outside the luxury boutique Kenzo, one of many blazes on and around the Champs-Elysees.

"Let there be no doubt: they are looking for violence and are there to sow chaos in Paris", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner wrote in a tweet. "He also said the crowd included 1,500 'ultraviolent ones who are there to smash things up, '" the AP reported.

That is a fraction of the 282,000 people they said took part in the inaugural demonstrations across France on November 17, but more than the previous weekend.

By mid-morning, 20 people were arrested as a heavy police presence was deployed in a bid to stop the violence.

A protester stands on a burning barricade during a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, March 16, 2019.

Lawyer and yellow vest protester Francois Boulo said: "Those who participated in this great debate are mostly retirees and upper middle class, meaning Macron's electorate, even though we understood this great national debate was supposed to respond to the yellow vest crisis".

Named after the high visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the revolt swelled into a broader movement against Macron and his reforms.

Many protesters, particularly those on the political extremes, see the national debate as a failure.

"We are dealing with several hundred, several thousand in some cases, highly determined people who are there to create disorder", Philippe said. "Everything", said Martine Sous, a protester from the Eure region west of Paris. While the rioters drew most attention Saturday, most of the protesters in Paris remain peaceful.

"We are pacifists", Sous insisted.