French police assert control as protesting ‘yellow vests’ rampage
London: French authorities boasted they had made a “record number” of arrests in Paris on Saturday, as they fought protesters for control of the streets.
As evening fell, after hours of clashes between protesters and security forces, it appeared the authorities had gained the upper hand.
People run from a burning car during clashes with police on Saturday in Marseille, southern France. Credit:AP
Media reported 126 people were taken to hospital during the violence in the capital.
Police responded with tear gas and batons.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said the city had suffered “immeasurable damage”.
Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner reported there had been 1150 arrests in Paris, which he said was “a record”.
The protests had centred around the “gilets jaunes”, the "yellow vest" group mostly from regional France who had coalesced on social media in rebellion against Emmanuel Macron’s unsympathetic government and its tax policies which were seen to favour the rich and hurt the poor.
However the movement has been – depending on whom you ask – either hijacked or helped by experienced radicals from the far left and right of the political spectrum. It is these groups the government has sought to blame for the chaos in the capital and around the country.
A person looks at shattered windows on a Starbucks Corp. cafe during the yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) protests in Paris on Saturday.Credit:Bloomberg
Police had “enforced the law in the face of thugs”, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Saturday.
Many of the rioters “did not come to express opinions but very often to fight, provoke and sometimes loot”.
But he also said there was a need to “re-establish national unity” and said President Emmanuel Macron would soon propose new measures to make this happen.
“The dialogue has begun,” Philippe said. It was up to the president to address the issues that “are already there and that will continue to arise in the years ahead”.
Secretary of State Benjamin Griveaux also praised police forces who “have once again courageously defended our fellow citizens”.
There were also reports of violence in other cities around France.
In Bordeaux, after a day of fires and barricades, media reported 26 wounded and 44 arrests.
Adding a touch of celebrity to the chaos, actress Uma Thurman posted a selfie from the protests saying there were “smoke bombs and riot police coming in”.
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