Paris riots 'worst in 50 years' as thousands of masked thugs carrying weapons smash shops and burn cars

The Arc de Triomphe was among hundreds of buildings attacked by anti-government ‘Yellow Vest’ fuel price protesters on Saturday — who said their actions were "the start of a revolution".

There were more than 200 arrests and up to a 100 serious injuries during an orgy of violence across the city that lasted more than 12 hours.

Looters and thugs wearing masks and carrying clubs and axes rampaged through luxury boutiques, chemists and supermarkets,

The police responded with water canon, tear gas and bloody baton charges.

"We are in an insurrectional climate," said Frederic Lagache, of the Alliance police union, which called for the State of Emergency.

It would allow extra powers to the forces of law and order, ranging from stop-and-searches to carrying out raids on the homes of suspected rioters.

Mr Lagache said "army reinforcements" should be brought in to guard public monuments, freeing up the police to deal with other trouble spots.

France last brought in a State of Emergency in 2015, following terrorist attacks by Islamic State, and it lasted until November 2017.

"Nothing is a taboo," said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

"We are studying all the procedures that would allow us to be more secure. I’m prepared to look at everything."

An Emergency was declared in November 2005 following widespread rioting on housing all over France.

The current spate of violence – which has also spread to other towns and cities – is considered the worst since the Spring of 1968, when Paris was also reduced to a warzone, and President Charles De Gaulle feared a full-scale revolution.

Trouble on Saturday started as early as 10am when a mob of Yellow Vests – named after the reflective jackets that all motorists have to carry in France – massed around the Arc de Triomphe.

Chilling images showed officers being beaten by attackers as other police were covered in yellow paint.

Statutes inside the historic monument were smashed, and political slogans sprayed on its walls.

Sixteen identity check points and police barricades had been set up on the Champs Elysees for the first time in its history in an attempt to avoid rioting — but the measures were a complete failure.

December 1 was one of the most important trade days of the year as hundreds of business wanted to welcome Christmas shoppers.

They included many Britons – the biggest visitor group to Paris – but most stayed away as the violence intensified.

There were 4,000 police on duty in central Paris – a thousand more than last week – and areas around the Elysee Palace, the office home of President Macron were in lock down.

The Yellow Vests have called for an end to escalating petrol and diesel prices, but it has become a wider anti-establishment movement.

President Emmanuel Macron has insisted that fuel prices have to rise in line with green initiatives made necessary by the Paris Climate Change agreement.

Speaking from the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, he said there would be "no possibility" of his government backing down in the face of disturbances.

During the most violent scenes last night, the Champs Elysees was blocked off after masked campaigners snatched an assault rifle from a riot police vehicle.

At least 19 metro stations in the French capital were closed as violent clashes between protesters and cops continued.

Fires and plumes of tear gas engulfed the city after more than 5,000 demonstrators brought chaos to its streets for the second week running.

Masked and hooded protesters smashed into businesses, including a Chanel shop and bars and cafes that had been locked up for the day.

A fire was started by the Jeu de Paume art gallery and scores of cars were torched.

Close to the Ritz Hotel – and in the avenues off the Arc de Trimphe, where several foreign embassies are based – violent protesters ran riot, setting a police van on fire and overturning cars.

By 10pm last night, there had been 287 arrests for serious offences, from violent disorder to theft, according to Le Figaro.

And at least 100 people, including 14 police officers, were seriously injured in the riots.

Earlier, fired-up demonstrators piled up large planks and other material in the middle of a street near the Arc de Triomphe before torching the debris.

Some people scaled the 19th century arch, and at one point hundreds sat beneath it shouting, "Macron resign."

Shocking footage also showed protesters surrounding and beating a police officer at the famous monument.

Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to try to push back mobs of protesters – said to contain right and left wing extremists.

Some demonstrators – fired up by the rising fuel prices in the country – responded by throwing large rocks at officers.

Others removed the barriers around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to pose near its eternal flame and sing the national anthem.

There were more than 100 arrests around the historic arch as baton charges were used to hold back around 1,500 demonstrators.

Gregory Joron, of the SGP police union said: "It is people’s right to demonstrate, but extremist groups have already joined in.

"Groups intent on trouble are appearing from all directions. They include those from the extreme right and the ultra-Left."

President Macron said those who attacked police and vandalized the Arc de Triomphe will be "held responsible for their acts."

He added: "(Violence) has nothing to do with the peaceful expression of a legitimate anger" and "no cause justifies" attacks on police or pillaging stores and burning buildings

He refused to answer any questions from journalists about the situation in Paris.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: "I am shocked by the attacks on the symbols of France. We are committed to dialogue, but also respect for the law."

Further rallies took place across the country, spreading to Marseille, Biarritz, Antibes and into the Netherlands.

A week ago, the Yellow Vests again brought anarchy to Paris, smashing up shops and restaurants and fighting running battles with CRS riot police.

The Dior Store was among those looted — with the designer fashion business losing up to £1 million-worth of stock.

Christophe Castener, France’s Interior Minister authorised workmen to set up obstacles in front of shops to prevent rioters from smashing windows and doors.

Areas around the Elysee Palace, the office home of President Macron were in lockdown.

Mr Castaner has blamed Marine Le Pen, leader of the Far Right National Rally party, for encouraging unsavoury elements to get involved in trouble.

He slammed the "radicalisation" and "anarchy" of the movement, while conceding that hard-Left elements had also hijacked the protests.

Mr Macron has insisted that fuel prices have to rise in line with green initiatives made necessary by the Paris Climate Change agreement.

He said there would be "no possibility" of his government backing down in the face of the disturbances.


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