French yellow-vest protesters vandalise shops on Champs Elysees

Lester Mason
March 17, 2019

"Large plumes of smoke rose above the rioting on Paris' landmark Champs-Elysees avenue", reports the Associated Press.

Paris police appeared to be caught off guard by the speed and severity of the unrest.

Protesters threw cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of Paris' Arc de Triumphed monument, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December.

A Banque Tarneaud branch spewed flames before firefighters arrived and rescued two people from the building, with 11 people suffering minor injuries, the fire department said.

A bank on the ground floor of a seven-storey residential building near the Champs-Elysees was also set ablaze.

Protest organizers had hoped to make a splash Saturday, which marks the 4-month anniversary of yellow vest movement that started November 17.

The latest rally coincided with the end of a two-month public debate called by Macron to try take the heat out of the protests and give voters a forum to propose policy changes to address declining living standards, stagnant wages and high unemployment.

The violence started minutes after the protesters gathered Saturday, when they threw smoke bombs and other objects at officers along the Champs-Elysees - the scene of repeated past rioting - and started pounding on the windows of a police van.

Rioters also set fire to an upmarket handbag store and two news-stands on the Champs Elysees, while scattered bonfires burned on the thoroughfare.

The protest is one of several planned in Paris on Saturday, where French climate campaigners are also planning a "March of The Century". A posh eatery called Fouquet's, which is associated with politicians and celebrities, was vandalized and set on fire. "But within this 8000, there are more than 1500 ultra-violent people who are there just to smash things up, to fight and to attack", he said.

He said the protests still remained small compared with the early days of the movement, with an estimated 8000 people on the streets on Saturday.

To be fair, Yellow Vests protests seemed to be fizzling out recently.

A new series of "Yellow Vest" protests rocked Paris Saturday with authorities confirming reports of looting and violence along the iconic Champs-Elysees; marking the 18 week demonstrators have marched against the French government's crippling taxes and lack of fuel across the country.

Lawyer and yellow vest protester Francois Boulo said: "Those who participated in this great debate are mostly retirees and upper middle class, meaning Macron's electorate, even though we understood this great national debate was supposed to respond to the yellow vest crisis".

Named after the high-visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the revolt swelled into a broader movement against Mr Macron and his reforms.

Many protesters, particularly those on the political extremes, see the national debate as a failure.

A German factory worker who traveled to Paris to show solidarity with yellow vest protesters said he agreed with the destruction inasmuch as banks are "the biggest problem in the world". "Everything", said Martine Sous, a protester from the Eure region west of Paris.

Saturday's protests were markedly more violent than in recent weeks.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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