Published: Mon, December 03, 2018
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Paris protests: France to consider imposing state of emergency

Paris protests: France to consider imposing state of emergency

Demonstrators clash with riot police at the Arc de Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. At least 110 people were injured.

Speaking on France's Europe 1 radio, spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the government is thinking about steps to prevent "serious outbursts of violence", including introducing a state of emergency.

"No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, businesses are plundered, passers-by or journalists are threatened or that the Arc du Triomphe is defiled", he said.

Authorities were caught off guard by Saturday's escalation in violence overshadowing the spontaneous protest movement, dubbed the "yellow vests" because many participants are wearing the fluorescent safety jackets kept in all cars in France. So far, the protests were peaceful.

President Emmanuel Macron denounced the violence from Argentina, where he was attending the G20 summit. France's failure to quell the anger has led to copycat yellow jacket movements in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

He then returned to Paris to view the Arc de Triomphe and hold emergency meetings with French ministers.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner denounced what he called the "professionals of disorder" and destruction who had organised the violence.

By the afternoon, clashed continued down several streets popular with tourists. The police used teargas, flash-balls and water cannons while some protesters responded with stone-throwing, flares and fireworks.

Most demonstrators have remained peaceful, although more than 200 people were injured, several seriously. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw other protesters and a soldier intervene to disperse the troublemakers and protect the flame.

Tear gas was sacked and water cannons were deployed as officers struggled for control.

Charred cars, broken windows and downed fences from the riot littered numerous city's most popular tourist areas on Sunday, including major avenues near the Arc de Triomphe, streets around the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue, and the Tuileries garden.

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A group sprayed graffiti on the iconic monument at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, which houses the tomb of the unknown soldier, where 60 leaders on November 11 commemorated the end of World War I. Later in the day, clashes spread throughout the west of the capital, with burning trash and tear gas near the Opera, in the Tuileries Garden, and on the Rue de Rivoli, favorite areas for tourists and visitors to the city.

A demonstrator watches a burning auto near the Champs-Elysees avenue during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris. The protesters wear high-vis jackets, which motorists have to carry in their cars by law.

Nunez said 5,000 police were deployed in Paris to try to contain the protests.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a post on Twitter she was "indignant" about the violence, and said "our country is faced with a profound crisis which can only be resolved by dialogue".

In addition to rising taxes, the demonstrators are furious about Macron's leadership, saying that his government does not care about the problems of ordinary people. "He was prophetic because it is what he has managed to launch, but not the revolution he sought", Far-left La France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told reporters ahead of a protest in Marseille.

The populist right-wing leader of the National Rally Marine Le Pen and far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the Unsubmissive France party, have called for Parliament to be dissolved and fresh elections to be held.

The first day of protests, on Nov 17, attracted around 282,000 people, while about 106,000 turned out last Saturday, including 8,000 in the capital. They marched on the famed avenue behind a big banner writing "Macron, stop taking us for stupid people".

Access to the avenue was closed to cars and strictly monitored by police with identity checks and bag inspections.

Rabah Mendez, a protester who came from a southern suburb to march peacefully in Paris, said "people say it's hard to reach the end of the month". "I came peacefully, but even I'm ready to fight given how I've seen the riot police behave", said Claude Metayer, a 67-year-old retired army commander, who came to Paris from Pau in the country's southwest with his 62-year-old wife Eve, a retired teacher.

"I am totally behind the "Gilets Jaunes"," said George DuPont, a resident in Paris' upscale 16th arrondissement.

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