TEAR gas has been fired and dozens of people have been arrested after police clashed with protesters across France during the ninth consecutive weekend of “yellow vests” rallies against president Emmanuel Macron.
Thousands of anti-government protesters wearing yellow jackets took to the streets in cities across France on Saturday in a mass show of dissent against Macron’s economic policies.
Protesters in Paris, Bourges and Nantes burned barricades and vehicles as authorities scrambled to keep a handle on nationwide violence, vandalism and rioting.
A heavy police presence, including 5,000 riot police using tall barricades and armoured vehicles to lock down central Paris, did not deter protesters from expressing their anger at the embattled president.
Violence scenes erupted in the city where there were skirmishes between riot police and protesters who descended on Paris’s iconic Champs Elysees boulevard.
A water cannon and tear gas was used by police to disperse protesters rallying near the Arc de Triomphe monument, where some demonstrators pelted them with stones and paint.
At least 50 people were arrested in the French capital, some for carrying objects that could be used as weapons, police said.
Marchers who gathered on the Champs Elysees, the scene of many demonstrations in recent weeks, were shouting loudly for Macron to resign.
“Macron, we are going to tear down your place!” read one banner.
“Macron, we are going to tear down your place”
The protests initially erupted in response to Macron’s proposed fuel tax but have expanded in scope to include other grievances, such as inequality, wages and living standards.
The “yellow vests”, which take their name from the high-visibility jackets they wear, are united by the belief that Macron, a former investment banker, favours the rich.
By mid-afternoon there had been no major clashes with police unlike in previous weeks.
There were also thousands of marchers in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulon in southern France as well as Strasbourg in the east and the central city of Bourges.
Bourges authorities said nearly 5,000 yellow vests stuck to the designated demonstration area but another 500 had pushed into the city centre that was off-limits for demonstrators.
Many businesses in Bourges had boarded themselves up to avoid damage from protesters and authorities had removed street furniture and building site materials that could be used for barricades.
In Strasbourg, up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the European Parliament building and later marched to the centre of the city on the Rhine river border with Germany.
Protesters set garbage bins ablaze and police fired a few tear gas grenades, but no serious violence or looting was reported.
More than 80,000 police were on duty for the protests nationwide, including 5,000 in Paris.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters took part part in a “yellow vest” inspired anti-austerity march in central London.
The “Britain is Broken” demonstration, organised by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, centred around calls for a general election.