Scuffles mar anniversary of birth of yellow vest movement

PARIS (AP) — Scuffles between Paris police and activists last Saturday marred the anniversary of the birth of the yellow vest movement against government policies seen as favouring the rich.

On a day of largely peaceful demonstrations across France, there were a few violent incidents in the capital that ended up with police firing off tear gas and water cannon.

Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement denounced, “People who came not to defend a cause but to destruct things” and deplored “attacks against security forces but also against firefighters”.

Police used tear gas as protesters tried to smash windows and enter into a shopping mall. Some were seen throwing stones at officers and setting fire to several vehicles, street trash cans and other urban equipment on Place d’Italie, in the southeast of the capital.

Earlier, the windows of a bank and several bus shelters in the area had been broken, leading to several police charges.

French riot police officers during a yellow vest demonstration marking the first anniversary in Paris. PHOTO: AP

Police have managed to dislodge protesters trying to block the bypass around Paris in the morning and were progressively evacuating Place d’Italie during the afternoon.

Lallement noted that most protesters marched in a “quite serene” atmosphere in another demonstration from northwestern Paris to Bastille plaza, in the east of the capital.

Police had detained 105 people by late afternoon and 71 people have been fined for protesting in a forbidden area. All demonstrations were banned in a large perimeter including the Champs-Elysees, the Presidential palace and both houses of Parliament.

Protests were taking place around the country at traffic circles where the grassroots movement first took root in November 2018 in protest at plans to raise fuel taxes.

For weeks, the protesters brought large parts of the country to a standstill.

No major incident was reported outside Paris on Saturday afternoon.

The outpouring of anger at perceived social and economic injustice eventually prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to reverse some of his tax plans and to offer EUR10 billion in measures to address protesters’ concerns.

Some protesters in Paris wore the high-visibility vests drivers are required to carry in their cars that gave the movement its name. Other demonstrators wore all black, their faces protected with gas masks.