24 Nov, 2018
The tense standoff between riot police and demonstrators – some of them masked – escalated as law enforcement were pelted with bottles. Police fired back with tear gas and water cannon spay.
At one point some streets in the city center resembled a battlefield, covered with what remained of the barricades, which were set up from fences and trash bins. Even the Arc de Triomphe was barely visible due to the thick smoke. Possible smoke grenades were also used as people walked past the smoking projectiles.
A flipped vehicle was set ablaze at Champs Elysee, with police bringing in a water cannon to extinguish the fire. A nearby café’s outdoor tent was also seen in flames but it is unclear how the fire started.
RT’s correspondent Charlotte Dubenskij has been caught in the midst of the rally as she was giving updates on the demonstration.
Footage from the scene also showed one of the protesters being dragged away by police in riot gear. At least eight protesters were arrested for throwing projectiles around noon, Le Figaro reported citing police.
Apart from putting the city center almost on lockdown, the chaos spilled into the subway and disrupted traffic there as several stations were closed after “malicious acts.”
One of the videos from the unrest shows demonstrators chanting behind the improvised barricades before being forced to retreat as they were smashed by thick sprays from the water cannon.
Saturday marks the second week in a row that protests have been held in the French capital and across the country. Some 3,000 security personnel have been deployed to deal with the rally in the city alone.
The unease has been spurred on by rising fuel prices and a planned fuel tax. The ‘Yellow Vest’ movement, as it’s called, is protesting the measure which is due to be in place from January 1, 2019. The government claims the move is aimed at promoting environmentally friendly practices. However, that has been met with a fierce response from the public.
Chaotic scenes emerged during similar rallies last weekend, with one marred by a death. A woman tragically died during a demonstration in the southeastern region of Savoie as a panicked driver hit her after protesters surrounded the vehicle and began kicking at it. The driver then accelerated and knocked the woman down. Around 200 people were injured during the protests and over 100 were arrested.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s policies, including his handling of the economic situation have already triggered multiple protests in France. The French leader also faced plummeting approval ratings amid social discontent with his reforms, such as tax relief for businesses while he plans to cut pensioner benefits.