France’s interior minister says the protest violence in Paris is “under control” despite scattered tensions but is calling it “totally unacceptable.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner says 135 people were injured in the protests Saturday, including 17 police officers. He says “exceptional” security measures allowed nearly police to put nearly 1,000 people in custody.
CGTN’s Elena Casas reports.
Casataner estimated there were 10,000 yellow vest protesters in Paris on Saturday, among some 125,000 protesters around the country.
The rumble of armored police trucks and the hiss of tear gas filled central Paris on Saturday, as French riot police fought to contain thousands of yellow-vested protesters venting their anger against the government in a movement that has grown more violent by the week.
A ring of steel surrounded the president’s Elysee Palace — a key destination for the protesters — as police stationed trucks and reinforced metal barriers throughout the neighborhood.
Saturday’s yellow vest crowd was overwhelmingly male, a mix of those bringing their financial grievances to Paris — the center of France’s government, economy and culture — along with groups of apparently experienced vandals, who tore steadily through some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, smashing and burning.
Some stores along the city’s elegant Champs-Elysees Avenue had boarded up their windows as though bracing for a hurricane, but the storm struck anyway, this time at the height of the holiday shopping season. Protesters ripped off the plywood protecting the windows and threw flares and other projectiles as they were repeatedly repelled by tear gas and water cannon.
All of the city’s top tourist attractions — including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum — shut down for the day, fearing the kind of damage that had hit the Arc de Triomphe. Subway stations in the city center also closed and the U.S. embassy warned its citizens to avoid all protest areas.
Yet in a sign of the financial disconnect that infuriates many of the protesters, within a block of the famed boulevard, people were sitting in Paris cafes, drinking cocktails and chatting.
Amid the melee, President Emmanuel Macron remained invisible and silent, as he has for the four weeks of a movement that started as a protest against a gas tax hike and metamorphosed into a rebellion against high taxes, eroding living standards and what many see as his inability to address the concerns of France’s regions and ordinary people.
Story by The Associated Press
Joav Toker discusses ‘Yellow Vest’ protests in France
CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg spoke with Joav Toker about the lack of leadership in the ‘Yellow Vest’ demonstrations in France. Toker is a geopolitics expert and professor at the American Graduate School in Paris.