Paris luxury stores looted, burned in ‘yellow vest’ riots

Source:AFP Published: 2019/3/17 20:28:39

A protester holds a French national flag as he walks among tear gas smoke past the Arc de Triomphe on the Place de l'Etoile in Paris on Saturday during clashes between "yellow vest" protesters and riot police forces on the 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations called by the movement. Photo: AFP

Rioters looted and torched shops and businesses on the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Saturday, on the 18th weekend of French "yellow vest" protests, characterized by a sharp increase in violence after weeks of dwindling turnout.

President Emmanuel Macron cut short a skiing trip in the Pyrenees to return to Paris for a crisis meeting, as hooded protesters went on the rampage in Paris, leaving a trail of destruction in the touristic heart of the city.

He vowed to take "strong decisions" to prevent further violence, following emergency talks held at the interior ministry late Saturday.

"There are people today who try by all means... to damage the Republic by breaking, by destroying things at the risk of killing someone," Macron said.

"All those who were there were complicit in" the havoc spread across the Champs-Elysees, he added.

The police appeared overrun as protesters swarmed the Champs-Elysees, vandalizing and later setting fire to Fouquet's brasserie, a favorite hangout of the rich and famous for the past century - as well as luxury handbag store Longchamp, a bank, another restaurant and news stands.

The rioters looted clothing stores and set fire to barricades in scenes reminiscent of the worst "yellow vest" riots in Paris in December.

"Like the vast majority of French people, I feel very angry today," tweeted French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who visited the scene. 

"Today's actions are not the work of protesters, but of looters, arsonists and criminals. No cause justifies this violence," he added.

In a statement, the national police denounced the "mindless violence, cowardly attacks" and stressed their determination to guarantee public order against "provocateurs and vandals."

Saturday's turnout was seen a test of the ongoing strength of the movement which began in November over fuel tax hikes and quickly ballooned into a rebellion against Macron's policies, seen by the protesters as geared towards the rich.

The interior ministry estimated the turnout in Paris Saturday at 10,000, out of around 32,300 nationwide.


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