French violence flares as yellow vest protests enter fourth month

French violence flares as yellow vest protests enter fourth month

Rioters set fire to a bank and ransacked stores on Paris's Champs Elysees avenue on Saturday, in a new flare-up of violence as France's yellow vest protests against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms entered a fourth month.

One unsafe blaze targeted a bank on the ground floor of a seven-story residential building.

Smoke and tear gas shrouded the Champs-Elysées and at least 109 people were arrested in the worst outbreak of violence on the fringes of a "yellow vest" demonstration in Paris for several weeks.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the protests were small compared with a few weeks ago, with only 8,000 people participating in Paris.

French firefighters are working to extinguish a blaze in a Paris restaurant seen as a powerful symbol of France's elite that was torched amid yellow vest protest violence.

Protest organizers had hoped to make a splash Saturday, which marks the 4-month anniversary of yellow vest movement that started November 17.

Protesters clash with French riot police during a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, March 16, 2019.

Police used tear gas and water canon on protesters, who fought back and attacked a police van.

Large plumes of smoke on Saturday rose above the rioting on the landmark Champs-Elysees avenue in the French capital, as the demonstrators set fires and smashed up luxury stores.

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Saturday's turnout was seen a test of the ongoing strength of the movement, which began in November over fuel tax hikes and quickly ballooned into a rebellion against Macron's policies, seen by the protesters as geared towards the rich.

And the number of yellow vest protesters remains smaller than early in the movement, when it drew masses to the streets nationwide and polled showed a majority of French people supporting their cause.

Around half a million people turned out at townhall-style meetings held around the country over the past two months.

But many "yellow vests" dismissed the consultation exercise as a smoke-screen.

Black-clad demonstrators encircled the square surrounding the arch, pelting the police with stones. He also said the Paris crowd included 1,500 "ultraviolent ones who are there to smash things up".

From early morning protesters began pouring into the capital by train and auto from around the country for what they called an "ultimatum" to Macron.

Over 5 000 police were deployed, along with several armoured police vehicles, and several metro stations were closed. The grassroots movement appears to be fizzling out but some are trying to ignite protestors again.

He also travelled the length and breadth of the country, engaging in marathon debates with local politicians and voters.

The protest was one of several planned in Paris on Saturday, where climate campaigners also gathered in their thousands to demand Macron go further on greening the economy. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

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