Rioters have set fire to a bank and ransacked stores on Paris’s landmark shopping street in a new flare-up of violence as part of France’s yellow vest protests.
- Some 10,000 people protested in Paris, up from 2,800 the week before
- Police fired tear gas after cars and shopfronts were set alight
- French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron has offered concessions to ease protesters’ concerns
Police fired tear gas and water cannons on Saturday local time as the protests against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms turned violent again after weeks of relative calm during marches and declining numbers of participants.
A Banque Tarneaud branch spewed flames before firefighters arrived and rescued two people from the building, with 11 people suffering minor injuries, the fire department said.
A mother and her child were saved from the flames on the second floor and other residents were safely evacuated.
Two news stands on the Champs Elysees avenue caught fire and bonfires burned in the streets.
Protesters threw cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December.
Police had arrested more 120 protesters by late afternoon as demonstrators looted stores around the Champs Elysees and ransacked the high-end Fouquet’s restaurant.
The interior ministry estimated 10,000 people had participated in the protest in Paris, compared with 2,800 the previous Saturday.
Elsewhere in France, protesters were estimated at 4,500, compared with 4,200 last week.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said although the protest was relatively small, there were more than 1,500 “ultra violent” people out looking for trouble.
“They decided, perhaps as a swansong, to come attack — and I use their words — Paris,” he said.
He said more than 1,400 police officers had been mobilised.
“I’ve given instructions to the police this morning for great firmness so that nothing slips by.”
Four months of protests
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 Mr Macron and his reforms.
However, the weekly demonstrations, held every Saturday in Paris and other cities, have been generally getting smaller since December, when Paris saw some of the worst vandalism and looting in decades.
After the spike in violence, Mr Macron offered a package of concessions worth more than 10 billion euros (almost $16 billion) aimed at boosting the incomes of the poorest workers and pensioners.
His Government ordered police to crack down on the protests in January, leading to complaints of police brutality.