Macron considers banning protests on Champs Elysees

Vandals left hardly a storefront or cafe unscathed as they broke windows and looted luxury stores along the famed Champs Elysees avenue in Paris last Saturday.
Vandals left hardly a storefront or cafe unscathed as they broke windows and looted luxury stores along the famed Champs Elysees avenue in Paris last Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron is considering banning all demonstrations on the Champs Elysees after "yellow vest" rioters wrecked the iconic Parisian avenue last weekend, an official said yesterday.

Last Saturday, protesters linked to the "yellow vest" movement ransacked stores and restaurants while lighting fires along the avenue as they clashed with police.

The protesters badly damaged the famous Fouquet's restaurant as well as several newspaper stands, a Longchamp luxury goods shop and vehicles along the street.

Following the riots, which were reminiscent of violent clashes last December on the same avenue between protesters and police, Mr Macron summoned a meeting with the interior and justice ministers.

Mr Macron has promised to take "strong measures" as soon as possible to prevent riots happening again this Saturday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's office said the latest violence showed current security arrangements were "insufficient".

Vandals left hardly a storefront or cafe unscathed as they broke windows and looted luxury stores.

Two newspaper stands were burnt to their metallic frames and in a nearby street a bank branch was set on fire, badly damaging the building and apartments above it.

Cleaners swept up broken glass, while shop owners boarded up smashed windows on Sunday after the worst unrest in central Paris since violence peaked before Christmas in a weekly series of protests.

 
 
 

"We've got to be able to stop these people," Mr Jean-Noel Rheinhardt, who heads a committee representing businesses on the Champs Elysees, told BFM TV.

A pensioner who gave his name as Serge told Reuters TV: "I'm not a tourist but if I were, I would be quite surprised if I arrived in Paris to find the Champs Elysees in such condition... People often talk about the 'City of Lights', the 'Fashion Capital' and all that, but all you can see is destruction, rubbish, protests."

Since the middle of last November, the "yellow vest" protesters - a group that originally demanded fuel tax cuts but has since morphed into a general opposition movement against the government - have held demonstrations every Saturday in the French capital.

Police estimated that 10,000 people joined the latest protest in Paris, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said a hard core of about 1,500 was set on causing trouble.

The weekly protests in Paris and other cities have been generally getting smaller since December.

Mr Macron has offered a package of concessions worth over €10 billion (S$15 billion) aimed at boosting the incomes of the poorest workers and pensioners.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2019, with the headline 'Macron considers banning protests on Champs Elysees'. Print Edition | Subscribe