French police clash violently with protesters on Champs-Elysees over petrol costs

VIDEO: REUTERS
Protesters wearing yellow vests, as a symbol of protest against higher fuel prices, riot on the Champs Elysee.
Protesters wearing yellow vests, as a symbol of protest against higher fuel prices, riot on the Champs Elysee.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A car is set ablaze during riots at a "yellow vest" protest on the Champs-Elysees.
A car is set ablaze during riots at a "yellow vest" protest on the Champs-Elysees.PHOTO: REUTERS
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, shout slogans at police during riots on the Champs-Elysees.
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, shout slogans at police during riots on the Champs-Elysees.PHOTO: REUTERS
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, make a barricade during riots on the Champs-Elysees.
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, make a barricade during riots on the Champs-Elysees.PHOTO: REUTERS
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, face a water canon fired by police during clashes on the Champs-Elysees.
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, face a water canon fired by police during clashes on the Champs-Elysees.PHOTO: REUTERS
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, stand in front of the barricade during riots on the Champs-Elysees.
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, stand in front of the barricade during riots on the Champs-Elysees.PHOTO: REUTERS
The demonstrations were sparked by an increase in diesel tax but have since morphed into a broad opposition front to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.
The demonstrations were sparked by an increase in diesel tax but have since morphed into a broad opposition front to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - Police firing tear gas and water cannons in Paris on Saturday (Nov 24) clashed with thousands of protesters angry over rising car fuel costs and President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies, the second weekend of “yellow vest” protests across France.

As night fell, the famed Champs-Elysees avenue, where fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld switched on the red lights of Christmas just a few days ago, was aglow with fires lit by protesters.

President Macron thanked police forces for their "courage and professionalism” in dealing with demonstrators as calm progressively returned to the Champs-Elysees.

“Shame on those who attacked them... There is no room for this violence in the Republic,” Mr Macron said on Twitter.

During the clashes, a trailer was set on fire and exploded on the Champs-Elysees, France’s most famous tourist mile, and a man who tried to attack fire fighters was overpowered by some of the demonstrators themselves.

On the nearby Avenue de Friedland, police fired special rubber balls to control demonstrators, who carried French flags or slogans, saying “Macron, resignation” and “Macron, thief”.

Around 8,000 protesters had converged on the Champs-Elysees, where police tried to prevent them from reaching the President’s Elysee Palace.

 
 
 

Police detained 130 people in Paris and in protests in other parts of the country.

Protesters are opposed to taxes Mr Macron introduced last year on diesel and petrol, which are designed to encourage people to switch to cleaner forms of transport. Alongside the tax, the government has offered incentives to buy electric vehicles.

For more than a week, protesters clad in the fluorescent yellow jackets that all motorists in France must have in their cars have blocked highways across the country with burning barricades and convoys of slow-moving trucks, obstructing access to fuel depots, shopping centres and some factories.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner accused far-right leader Marine Le Pen of fanning the protests in the capital.

“Ultra-right networks were very mobilised on the Champs-Elysees,” he said. There were about 20 people injured on the Champs-Elysees, according to police.

CHALLENGE FOR MACRON

On Saturday last week, nearly 300,000 people took part in the first yellow vest demonstrations countrywide. 

By early evening this Saturday, more than 106,000 demonstrators were involved in protests across France, according to the ministry.

The unrest is a dilemma for Mr Macron, who casts himself as a champion against climate change but has been derided as out of touch with common folk and is fighting a slump in popularity.

While the movement, which has no leader, began as a backlash against higher fuel prices, it has tapped broader frustration at the sense of a squeeze on household spending power under Mr Macron’s 18-month-old government.

Since coming to power, Mr Macron has seen off trade union and street demonstrations against his changes to the labour rules, and overhauled the heavily indebted state rail operator. Foreign investors have largely cheered his pro-business administration.