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Paris protests: France to consider imposing state of emergency

03 December 2018
Paris protests: France to consider imposing state of emergency

France's most violent urban riot in more than a decade engulfed some of central Paris on Saturday as "yellow jacket" activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multi-colored graffiti.

French President Emmanuel Macron will lead an urgent security meeting on Sunday, following a day of riots by hundreds of anti-government protesters in Paris.

Macron also asked Prime Minister Édouard Philippe to hold talks with political party leaders and some of the people who represent the protesters.

A broken sculpture of Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic, appears damaged in the gallery inside the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris.

Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and dozens were arrested after pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday. "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.

"It is out of the question that each weekend becomes a meeting or ritual for violence".

Several streets and metro stations were shut and major avenues, including the Champs-Elysees and the Tuileries Garden, were littered with piles of debris and burned cars.

While there have already been reports of the rioting continuing in Paris on Sunday morning, the details of Saturday's events are still being tallied, with over 190 fires reported across the city.

Demonstrators claim that they've finally had their fill of Macron's overbearing nanny state, and that a recently introduced package of taxes and regulations meant to curb fossil fuel consumption by dramatically increasing the price of gasoline were the last straw in their dissatisfaction with Macron's government.

Later Sunday, Macron is holding an emergency government meeting on security issues.

The protests began on November 17, when hundreds of thousands of people across France turned out to protest fuel taxes that Macron imposed as part of a plan to reduce energy consumption and tackle climate change. On Sunday, Macron also met with police officers and firefighters near the Champs Elysee boulevard, a popular shopping spot.

Graffiti was daubed at the Arc de Triomphe, with one slogan saying: "The yellow vests will win".

French television showed police leading a shaken woman away from the protesters, and loud bangs rang out near the famed Champs Elysees Avenue where the violence was centered.

"(Violence) has nothing to do with the peaceful expression of a legitimate anger" and "no cause justifies" attacks on police or pillaging stores and burning buildings, Macron said.

A driver was killed overnight in an accident at a yellow vest blockade in southeastern France after a auto collided with a heavy goods vehicle, the third death since the protest began, a gendarmerie official told Reuters.

"Our responsibility is to ensure that everything goes as well as possible", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said earlier while touring the forces on the avenue.

Almost 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set alight, the interior ministry said.

"We want our dignity back and we want to be able to live from our work, which is absolutely not the case today", Jason Herbert said after walking out of talks with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday.

Extremists on the left and right, anarchists and vandals have joined the demonstrations.

Chantal, a 61-year-old pensioner who came from an eastern Paris suburb, said she was avoiding the "hooligans" but was determined to send Macron a message on the rising costs of living.

"Those guilty of this violence don't want change, they don't want improvements, they want chaos".