Mon, Dec 03, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Macron to hold crisis talks on protests

ANTI-GOVERNMENT VIOLENCE:The interior minister said he would not rule out a declaration of emergency after more than 400 people were arrested in Paris

AFP, PARIS

Demonstrators push a burned car during a demonstration on Saturday in Paris, amid clashes with police.

Photo: AP

French President Emmanuel Macron was to hold a crisis meeting yesterday after anti-government protests in Paris that left 133 people injured and a trail of destruction around the capital.

Macron arrived in Paris from Argentina yesterday morning after attending the G20 summit in Argentina, and went immediately to the Arc de Triomphe monument, which had been sprayed with graffiti and damaged in Saturday’s protests, to pay tribute to the Unknown Soldier from World War I whose tomb is under the monument.

He was to meet later with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner and top security service officials at the presidential palace.

New figures released from the Paris police service showed that 412 people were arrested on Saturday during the worst clashes in years in the capital and 378 were still in custody.

A total of 133 people had been injured, including 23 members of the security forces who battled rioters for most of the day in some of the most famous parts of the capital.

“I will never accept violence,” Macron told a news conference in Buenos Aires before flying home. “No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, that businesses are plundered, that passers-by or journalists are threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is defiled.”

In a fresh incident yesterday morning, a motorway pay booth was set on fire by arsonists near the city of Narbonne, a judicial source said.

The main north-south motorway in eastern France, the A6, was also blocked by protesters near the city of Lyon yesterday morning, its operator said.

However, Paris was calm, but as groups of workers moved around cleaning up the mess from the previous day, the scale of the destruction became clear.

In famed areas around the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre Museum, the Opera or Place Vendome, smashed shop windows, broken glass and the occasional burned car were testament to the violence.

Dozens of cars were torched by the gangs of rioters, some of whom wore gas masks and ski goggles to lessen the effects of tear gas which was fired continually by police.

One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down one of the huge iron gates of the Tuileries garden facing the Louvre, crushing several people.

Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set alight, the French Ministry of the Interior said.

At the Arc de Triomphe, graffiti had been daubed saying: “The yellow vests will win,” a reference to the so-called “yellow vest” protests that have swept France over the past two weeks.

The movement has since morphed into a broad opposition front to Macron.

Violent anarchist and far-right groups have since infiltrated it and are thought to be behind Saturday’s clashes.

Macron faces a dilemma in how to respond to the “yellow vests,” not least because they are a grassroots movement with no formal leaders and a wide range of demands.

“We have said that we won’t change course, because the course is good,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told BFM television defiantly yesterday morning.

“It’s been 30 years that people change course every 18 months,” he added, referring to Macron’s predecessors who have often caved in to pressure from street protests.

Macron has so far refused to roll back taxes on fuel, which he says are needed to fund the country’s transition to a low-emission economy.

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