Protests continue in France as demonstrators clash with police
FRANCE – Sixty people, including 17 police officers and a fireman, were slightly injured Saturday on the 18th straight day of yellow vest demonstrations in Paris.
Protests turned violent as police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Protesters threw rocks and set up barricades.
A spokesman for Paris police said 192 people were being held for questioning. The Paris prosecutor’s office said 64 have been placed in custody.
Protesters torched a branch of the Tarneaud bank, a spokesperson for Paris firefighters said. Firefighters evacuated the building and put out the blaze.
On the Champs-Élysées, stores and restaurant windows were shattered and a newspaper stand was set on fire. Fouquet’s, the restaurant where former President Nicolas Sarkozy celebrated his election in May 2007, was among the vandalized establishments.
The restaurant’s windows were smashed, its awning burned and its insides wrecked. Protesters used spray paint to write “Sarkozy has broken everything” on the restaurant’s outside wall.
“No doubt: they are calling for violence and are here to wreak havoc,” French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted Saturday as the clashes unfolded. “Professionals of damage and disorder, equipped and masked, have infiltrated the protests. My instruction to the police: Respond very firmly to these unacceptable attacks.”
The “gilets jaunes” or yellow vest protests began as a campaign against a gas tax hike, but have morphed into a broader rally against President Emmanuel Macron’s government.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, during an interview with BFM on Saturday, said those who “excuse or encourage” the ongoing protests are “complicit.”
Philippe said authorities are working to ensure those responsible will be “put before the tribunal and be severely punished.”
“Our objective is one of total firmness,” Philippe said, adding that there are thousands of “very determined people who are there to create disorder and to commit the acts I have just denounced.”