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France to ban 'yellow vest' protests if violent groups take part - PM

President Emmanuel Macron and his government have been forced back on the defensive after rioters ransacked luxury boutiques and torched cafes and a bank on Saturday in the latest flare-up of violence against Macron’s pro-business reforms.

A Yellow Vest protester waves a French national flag while standing behind a burning barricade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on 16 March 2019, during the 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations called by the 'Yellow Vest' (gilets jaunes) movement. Picture: AFP

PARIS - France’s prime minister said Paris’s police chief had been sacked and that the government would shut down “yellow vest” protests if violent groups were identified among the ranks of “yellow vest” protesters.

President Emmanuel Macron and his government have been forced back on the defensive after rioters ransacked luxury boutiques and torched cafes and a bank on Saturday in the latest flare-up of violence against Macron’s pro-business reforms.

“From next Saturday, we will ban ‘yellow vest’ protests in neighbourhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see sign of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a televised speech.

Some 10,000 people participated in Saturday’s protests in the capital, according to police estimates, including a hard-core of about 1,500 troublemakers who Philippe said were bent on “looting, destroying property and causing injury.”

“These were criminal acts. The government’s response must be strong,” Philippe sad.

A new Paris police chief would be appointed on Wednesday, he said, adding that police officers on the ground would be given more decision-making autonomy and handed extra equipment including drones.

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