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France's 'yellow vests' clash with police in Paris

Police used tear gas, water cannon and horses to charge protesters on roads fanning out from the Champs Elysees boulevard.

Protesters build a barricade during a protest of yellow vests against rising oil prices and living costs, on 1 December, 2018 in Paris. Picture: AFP

PARIS - Anti-government protesters faced off with French riot police in Paris on Saturday, hurling projectiles, torching cars and vandalising shops and restaurants in a fourth weekend of unrest that has shaken President Emmanuel Macron’s authority.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and horses to charge protesters on roads fanning out from the Champs Elysees boulevard, but encountered less violence than a week ago, when the capital witnessed its worst unrest since the 1968 student riots.

As night fell and many demonstrators started returning home, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said there had been about 10,000 protesters in Paris by early evening and some 125,000 across the country.

Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse and other cities also saw major clashes between protesters and police on Saturday.

“The situation is now under control,” Castaner said at a joint news conference with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

He said about 120 demonstrators and nearly 20 police officers had been injured nationwide. Nearly 1,000 people had been arrested, 620 of them in Paris, after police found potential weapons such as hammers and baseball bats on them.

Philippe said police would remain vigilant through the night as some protesters continued to roam the city.

Groups of youths, many of them masked, continued skirmishing with police in the Place de la Republique area as some stores were looted.

Named after the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists must carry, the “yellow vest” protests erupted out of nowhere on 17 November, when nearly 300,000 demonstrators nationwide took to the streets to denounce high living costs and Macron’s liberal economic reforms.

Demonstrators say the reforms favour the wealthy and do nothing to help the poor and billed Saturday’s protest “Act IV” of their protest after three consecutive Saturdays of rioting.

The government this week cancelled a planned rise in taxes on petrol and diesel in a bid to defuse the situation but the protests have morphed into a broader anti-Macron rebellion.

“Very sad day & night in Paris,” US President Donald Trump said in a Twitter message. “Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes?”

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