Macron’s Government Staggering, as Riots Engulf Paris
- State of insurrection as fuel tax riots engulf central Paris
Rioters ran wild across central Paris Saturday, torching cars and buildings, looting shops, smashing windows and clashing with police in the worst unrest in more than 10 years, posing a dire challenge to Emmanuel Macron’s flagging Presidency.
The authorities were caught off guard by the escalation in violence after 2 weeks of nationwide protests against fuel taxes and living costs, known as the “yellow vest” movement after fluorescent jackets kept in all vehicles in France.
In Paris, police said they had arrested almost 300 people while 110 were injured, including 20 members of the security forces.
Police fired stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon at protesters at the top of the Boulevard Champs-Elysees, at the Tuilleries Garden near the Louvre museum and other iconic sites.
In some areas there was virtually no police presence at all, as groups of masked men roamed in the shadows of the capital’s fabled landmarks and through its fanciest shopping districts, smashing the windows of designer boutiques.
President Macron, 40 anni, is in Argentina for the G-20 Summit, there he said he would convene ministers to discuss the crisis upon his return Sunday. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe canceled a trip to Poland to attend
“We are in a state of insurrection, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Jeanne d’Hauteserre, the Mayor of Paris’ 8th district, near the Arc de Triomphe.
The popular rebellion seemed to erupt out of nowhere on 17 November, and spread quickly via social media, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots.
Saturday, some targeted the Arc de Triomphe, chanting “Macron Resign” and scrawling on the facade of the towering 19th-Century arch: “The yellow vests will triumph.”
Addressing a news conference in Buenos Aires, President Macron said no cause justified the looting of stores, attacks on the security forces or torching of property. The violence, he said, had nothing to do with the peaceful expression of legitimate grievances.
“I will always respect differences. I will always listen to opposition, but I will never accept violence,” President Macron said.
Protesters smashed the windows of a newly opened flagship Apple Store, and luxury boutiques of Chanel and Dior, where they daubed the slogan “Merry Mayhem” on a wooden board.
Close to the Place Vendome, Christmas trees decorating the streets were upended, piled in the middle of an avenue and set ablaze, prompting chanting from scores of protesters.
Order appeared to have been restored late in the evening, although small groups were still at odds with police near the Champs Elysees.
The protests began as a backlash against President Macron’s fuel tax hikes, but have tapped into a vein of deep dissatisfaction felt towards the President’s economic reforms, which many French voters feel favor the wealthy and big business.
“Mr Macron wrote a book called Revolution. He was prophetic because it is what he has managed to launch, but not the revolution he sought,” Far-left La France Insoumise leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told reporters ahead of a protest in Marseille.