More than 250 people were arrested in Paris yesterday as police clashed with ‘yellow vest’ demonstrators aiming to revive an anti-government protest movement.
Officers fired tear gas in Paris as the ‘gilet jaunes’ returned after being hit by the coronavirus lockdown this year.
The movement, named after motorists’ high-vis jackets, emerged in late 2018 in protest against fuel taxes and the cost of living, but snowballed into a major challenge to President Emmanuel Macron’s Government, as demonstrations spread across France.
Waste bins, a car and a motorbike were set on fire as protesters came out despite a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
By midday on Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators had gathered at the starting points of two authorised marches in Paris.
While one proceeded without incident, the other march was aborted as police clashed with groups who left the designated route and started fires.
Some protesters wore black clothes and carried an anti-fascist movement flag – suggesting the presence of radical demonstrators dubbed ‘black blocs’, which are often blamed for violence at French street marches, as well as police.
Officers repeatedly used tear gas to counter small groups of roaming protesters, before they dispersed towards the end of the afternoon after setting up barricades and lighting flares.
By 6pm local time, police had made 256 arrests – many for carrying items like tools that could be used as weapons.
A heavy police presence stopped protesters reaching the Champs-Elysees, the famous shopping district which was the scene of rioting at the height of the yellow vest movement. Many stores had been boarded up on Saturday.
The return of the protests comes as the country was hit by a new daily high of coronavirus cases on Saturday, when it recorded 10,561 new confirmed infections.
Police had called on Saturday’s demonstrators to respect coronavirus measures in Paris, which is among France’s high-risk ‘red zones’ and where it is compulsory to wear a face mask in the street.
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