‘This is the start of a revolution’: Paris rioters steal police assault rifle, torch dozens of cars and vow to ‘stay in the streets until Christmas’ as fuel protests continue into the night and spread across France – and even to Holland
- ‘Yellow Vest’ supporters staged fresh protests on the Champs-Elysees which leads to the Arc de Triomphe
- They vowed to continue rioting until Christmas after riot police used tear gas and water cannon to fight back
- Dozens of cars were torched, the Arc de Triomphe was graffitied and shops and houses were ransacked
Who are the ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters and how do they get their name?
The ‘yellow vest’ or ‘gilets jaunes’ protesters have taken to the streets of Paris again in what began as a row over fuel prices but has developed into a wider onslaught on the French government.
It was first prompted by Emmanuel Macron’s move to raise the price of diesel fuel in a bid to encourage less polluting cars.
Motorists took to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow jackets which drivers are required to carry in their vehicles in France, giving the movement its name.
Since then the protest has gathered momentum and taken aim at the high cost of living and wider dissatisfaction with Macron’s presidency.
Macron has been accused of being out of touch with the problems of ordinary French people.
At today’s demonstration, there were calls for Macron, whose popularity has slumped, to resign.
A blaze was started by the Jeu de Paume, one of the most famous art galleries in Paris, and dozens of cars were also burned out.
Riot police sprayed tear gas, fired water cannon and stun grenades and pulled out their batons to fight back against ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters who occupied the famous boulevard and graffitied the Arc de Triomphe.
France’s interior minister said police were not able to keep protesters from damaging the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris or spraying it with graffiti.
Christophe Castaner, speaking on French television TF1, said: ‘While some (protesters) invaded the Arc de Triomphe, our police forces were protecting other protesters and bystanders.’
French television showed images of protesters inside the famous monument, spraying graffiti and taking selfies.
Masked and hooded protesters were pictured hurling crowd barriers at police in Paris and this evening stole an assault rifle from a police car in the city center.
Meanwhile, there were further rallies spiraling across the country, spreading to Marseille, Biarritz, and Antibes on the Mediterranean coast and even into the Netherlands.
The protests, named ‘Yellow Vest’ after drivers’ high-vis jackets, began last month amid fury over rising fuel prices but have mushroomed into an all-out challenge to Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.
Some 5,000 police and gendarmes are being deployed today in a replica of last Saturday’s chaos when Parisians smashed up shops and restaurants and battled riot squads in the first round of major protests.
Trouble started as early as 10 am when a mob of Yellow Vests – who are named after the reflective jackets that all motorists have to carry in France – massed around the Arc de Triomphe.
Chilling images showed individual officers being beaten by masked attackers, as other police were covered in yellow paint.
Sixteen identity checkpoints and police barricades had been set up on the Champs Elysees for the first time in its history in an attempt to avoid rioting on the most famous avenue in France.
The protests have spread beyond the French capital as demonstrators wearing the same high-vis vests blocked a motorway in Biarritz in the south-west of the country and let off yellow smoke grenades in Marseille, France’s second-largest city.
Police said 115 people had been arrested for violent order offenses in Paris, amid concerns that far-right and far-left groups were infiltrating the spontaneous protests over living costs.
Several hundred protesters sat down under the arch at the top of the Elysees, singing La Marseillaise, France’s national anthem, and chanting, ‘Macron Resign!’
On the facade of the towering 19th-century arch, protesters scrawled in big black letters: ‘The yellow vests will triumph’, while along the Champs Elysees, peaceful demonstrators held up a slogan reading, ‘Macron, stop treating us like idiots!’
Riot police were covered in bright yellow paint thrown by the Yellow Vests as the violence intensified and the area around the Arc de Triomphe was turned into a battleground.
The Elysee Palace, the office of the President, is on lockdown as protesters waving flags and lighting flares take over the area.
Protesters blocked roads in Biarritz and Antibes further south and even in the Hague, in the Netherlands, yellow-jacketed demonstrators were spotted gathering outside government buildings.
An estimated 75,000 demonstrators were counted across the country as of 3 pm.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted her ‘indignation’ and ‘deep sadness,’ saying that violence is ‘not acceptable.’
She wrote: ‘I feel a deep indignation and a great sadness at the violence in the heart of Paris. They are unacceptable. Our country is facing a major crisis. It can only be resolved through dialogue. We must find this path as soon as possible.
‘As a result of the violence that occurred on Saturday, I will be meeting on Sunday morning the crisis unit of the city of Paris, which will bring together my deputies, the mayors of the affected boroughs and the representatives of the municipal services.’
Fires and clouds of tear gas covered the French capital from early morning until late in the evening, in some of the worst violence ever seen in the French capital as more than 5,000 demonstrators brought chaos to Paris for the second week running.
As so-called Yellow Vest fuel price demonstrators marched along the opulent Avenue Foch near the Arc de Triomphe, home to embassies and luxury residences, they were joined by criminal groups included looters.French President Emmanuel Macron has promised the protesters will be ‘held responsible for their acts’.
Macron said today’s demonstrations which have left dozens injured and hundreds arrested ‘have nothing to do with the peaceful expression of a legitimate anger.’ He said ‘no cause justifies attacks on police or pillaging stores and burning buildings’.
Macron said he is holding an emergency government meeting Sunday on the protests. He spoke from the G20 summit being held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
French police confirmed there had been at least 224 arrests today during the protests for a series of offenses, ranging from violent disorder to theft. There were 110 serious injuries, including more than 20 police officers.
The center of Paris was on lockdown tonight after masked protesters stole an assault rifle from police, clashed with riot squads and set fire to cars and Christmas trees on the Champs-Elysees in furious demonstrations against the French government. A car completely engulfed in flames is burned in front of the Arc de Triomphe as police struggle to defuse the protests
It comes a week after rioters brought chaos to Paris in a movement against fuel prices and high living costsFirefighters rush to put out the fire started during Paris protest Yellow-jacketed protesters on the Champs-Elysees today
Riot police officers spray tear gas against demonstrators during Saturday’s protest which follows rioting last weekend Smoke can be seen rising in the distance in a picture taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe amid violent protests in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron promised that protesters would be ‘held responsible for their acts’