Violence erupts in Paris "Yellow Vest" protest
Violence erupted in early hours of a fresh day of social action orchestrated by "Yellow Vest" movement on Saturday, the 18th weekend protest in a row, Trend reports citing Xinhua.
Wearing the high visibility vests, drivers kept in their cars in a social rebellion against President Emmanuel fiscal roadmap and economic policy. Thousands of demonstrators descended on the Champs Elysees, where 5,000 police officers have been deployed along the 2-km avenue.
The first clashes occurred in the capital's main tourist magnet at around 1000 GMT, as a group of troublemakers tried to to break through security cordons. Video footage showed tear gas clouds rose into the air.
Tensions flared further around the 19th-century Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs Elysees boulevard. Hooded people wearing in black formed barricades and threw stones and other projectiles.
Pelted with cobblestones, police fired tear gas and used water cannons to push back the crowd and disperse rioters.
Unlike last weeks peaceful protests, Saturday's demonstration called by some most determined "Yellow Vest" protesters as an "ultimatum" to President Macron, was tainted by scenes of disturbance that reminded the images of pre-Christmas violent demonstration which caused shock worldwide.
The capital's vibrant avenue turned into battle field. A bank, two newspaper kiosks were in flames in the Champs Elysees avenue, and shop-fronts and a restaurant were smashed, forcing the closure of dozens of metro stations.
"Let there be no doubt: they are looking for violence and are there to sow chaos in Paris...," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted.
He pledged to "respond with the utmost firmness to these inadmissible attacks."
Paris police headquarters said 64 people had already been arrested.
Officials have warned that far-right and far-left groups plan to infiltrate the "Yellow Vest" movement, a popular rebellion against diesel tax hikes and the high cost of living which started on Nov. 17, 2018.
According to Castaner, 1,500 troublemakers "have come to attack Paris" and responded to "calls for violence from some leaders of "Yellow Vest".
"I gave orders not to let anything pass," the minister told BFMTV news channel, noting that "the movement no longer exists in everyday life ...with only about 200 people mobilized daily."
The minister added, by midday, between 7,000 and 8,000 protesters took part in the 18th weekend of action that marks the end of the national consultations with which President Macron tried to head off the social uprising.
Last week, the turnout on the streets of Paris and other cities hit its lowest score since it has begun, four months ago. About 28,000 people were counted on March 9 including 3,000 in Paris, the Interior Ministry said.
This was down from a week earlier when there were 39,300 protesters out on the streets, 4,000 of which were in the French capital.