Hundreds of protesters are breathing new life into France’s apparently waning ‘yellow vest’ movement with marches in Paris and gatherings in other cities, in the 1st demonstration of the new year.
Authorities warn that they will not tolerate illegal acts.
French security forces fired tear gas and flash-balls after a march through central Paris went from peaceful to provocative Saturday as several thousand protesters staged the ‘yellow vest’ movement’s first action of Y 2019 to keep up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron.
A river boat restaurant moored below the clashes on the Left Bank of the Seine River caught fire.
Smoke and tear gas wafted above the Orsay Museum and the gold dome of the French Academy as riot police, nearly invisible at the start of the demonstration, moved front and center when protesters deviated from an officially approved path.
Police boats patrolled the river while beyond the Seine, motorcycles and a car were set on fire on the Boulevard Saint Germain, a main Left Bank thoroughfare.
Riot police and firefighters moved in, and barricades mounted in the middle of the wide street also glowed in orange flames.
Protesters made their way to the Champs-Elysees Avenue, the famed boulevard that has been at the center of previous yellow vest demonstrations, many removing their distinctive vests and mixing with shoppers.
One known figure in the movement, Eric Drouet, was detained overnight this week for allegedly organizing an illegal demonstration.
Riot police moved in with a water cannon to evacuate the avenue. A line of parked cars burned on a nearby street.
In a 1st, the building housing the office of the French government spokesman was attacked.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux was evacuated from his Left Bank office at the Ministry for Parliamentary Relations after the front door of the building was partially destroyed.
Mr. Griveaux said those still protesting “want insurrection.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner estimated that about 50,000 people participated in protests around France Saturday. Police counted some 3,500 protesters in Paris.
The movement is named after fluorescent vests French motorists must keep in cars.