Worst Riot in a Decade Engulfs Paris; Macron Vows Action

Paris police said Sunday that 133 people had been injured and 412 had been arrested as protesters trashed the streets of the capital during France's worst urban riot in years.

France's interior ministry says about 136,000 people took part in the protests nationwide on Sunday, showing widespread support for the movement known as the "gilets jaunes" (yellow vests), who complain about a sharp increase in fuel taxes.

Police work around the message, "The Yellow Vests will Triumph" written on the Arc de Triomphe, the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel taxes, in Paris, on December 2, 2018.

Macron denounced the violence from the G-20 summit in Argentina, saying those who attacked police and vandalized the Arc de Triomphe will be "held responsible for their acts".

The president assessed the Arc de Triomphe, the massive monument to France's war dead at the top of the Champs-Elysees avenue, where rioters scrawled graffiti and ransacked the ticketing and reception areas.

Police used with tear gas and a water cannon to disperse protesters and closed down "dozens of streets and Metro stations to contain the riot", the Associated Press reported.

The Protests began as a demonstration against rising gas prices but have evolved into a broader anti-government movement.

Yet a government spokesman said the state of emergency was an option amid clashes between protesters and the police.

Most demonstrators have remained peaceful, although more than 200 people were injured, several seriously.

French leader Emmanuel Macron faced growing pressure Monday to find a way out of the worst crisis of his presidency after shocking scenes of rioting in Paris at the weekend.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that Saturday's violent protests in the capital were having knock-on effects to the economy.

Macron faces a dilemma in how to respond to the yellow vests, not least because they are a grass roots movement with no formal leaders and a wide range of demands.

The "yellow vest protests" which began several weeks ago continued this weekend, with demonstrators, clad in the safety vests the French government mandates each French person must keep in their personal vehicle for emergencies, running rampant across central Paris.

The protesters have no apparent leaders, making it hard for the French government to negotiate or meet with them. The Arc de Triomphe, a unifying national monument that houses the tomb of the unknown soldier, was defaced, and a bust of national symbol Marianne was smashed. The protesters wear high-vis jackets, which motorists have to carry in their cars by law.

Griveaux said that between 1,000 and 1,500 people joined Saturday's demonstrations "only to fight with the police, to break and loot".

Police fired tear gas to repel demonstrators around the island's sole container port in the west, which has been blocked for 15 days, leading to shortages of imported wheat, medication and other necessities.

On Saturday, demonstrations and road blockades in other parts of France were largely peaceful.

"Every month we end up 500 euros in the red".

Paris police Prefect Michel Delpuech said some officers described encountering "unprecedented" violence, including protesters using hammers, gardening tools, bolts, aerosol cans as well as rocks in physical confrontations.

Chantal, a 61-year-old pensioner who came from an eastern Paris suburb, said she was avoiding the "hooligans" but was determined to send Macron a message on the rising costs of living.

  • Leroy Wright