French riot police clashed with “yellow vest” protesters in central Paris on Saturday during the latest wave of demonstrations against high living costs which have shaken President Emmanuel Macron’s authority, Reuters reports.
Protesters played a cat-and-mouse game with riot police, moving from the heavily guarded Champs Elysees area to other parts of the city, setting cars, garbage bins and wooden shutters on fire. More than 30 people were injured.
Authorities said some 8,000 people were demonstrating in Paris, where 600 people had been searched and briefly arrested. More than 500 of them remained in custody after police found they carried potential weapons such as hammers, baseball bats and metal balls used in the French lawn game petanque.
Some 31,000 people were demonstrating across France.
Police fired tear gas, used water cannon and horses to charge at protesters, but there was less violence than last week, when rioters torched 112 cars and looted shops in the worst rioting in Paris since May 1968.
“We were on our knees and they shot tear gas at us. I am telling you, things are going to blow up tonight,” said Yanis Areg, 21, from Paris suburb Montfermeil.
A police source told Reuters he feared that things would get out of hand after nightfall.
Large groups of people were heading to eastern Paris, where a march against climate change was under way. Armed police vehicles were seen breaking up makeshift barricades in the upmarket shopping district around Boulevard Haussmann, where supermarkets were looted and several cars were set on fire.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe appealed for restraint.
“We will do all we can so that today can be a day without violence, so that the dialogue that we started this week can continue in the best possible circumstances,” he said on French television.
On Tuesday, Philippe announced the government would suspend planned fuel tax increases for at least six months to help defuse weeks of protests, marking the first U-turn by Macron’s government since he came to power 18 months ago.