Protesters angry about rising taxes clash with police in Paris, 81 arrested
Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and dozens were arrested after pockets of demonstrators built barricades in the middle of streets in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday.
Protesters, including some wearing black hoodies, piled up large plywood planks and other material in the middle of a street near the Arc de Triomphe, and set the debris on fire.
WATCH: Police use tear gas as protests rage against rising fuel prices in France
Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to try to push back the protesters who gathered around the Arc de Triomphe. Some demonstrators responded by throwing large rocks.
Others removed the barriers protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, under the monument, to pose near its eternal flame and sing the national anthem. They were then dispersed by police.
French Deputy Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said that 3,000 “troublemakers” were around the Champs-Elysees avenue, outside a perimeter secured by police. Paris police said at least 81 people have been arrested at midday. Nunez said 5,000 police were deployed in Paris to try to contain the protests.
WATCH: Police officer reportedly injured during France fuel protests
Meanwhile, several hundreds of peaceful protesters, called “yellow jackets” for the fluorescent vests they wear, passed through police checkpoints to reach the Champs-Elysees. They marched on the famed avenue behind a big banner writing “Macron, stop taking us for stupid people.” In addition to rising taxes, demonstrators are furious about President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership. A demonstration last weekend in Paris also turned violent.
Access to the Champs-Elysee was closed to cars and strictly monitored by police with identity checks and bag inspections.
The clashes in Paris contrasted Saturday with protests in other French regions, where demonstrations and road blockades were largely peaceful.
The protests, which began with motorists demonstrating against a fuel tax hike, now involve a broad range of demands related to the country’s high cost of living.
Shopkeepers on the Champs-Elysees prepared for possible new violence, bringing in workers to barricade boutique windows with boards. Decorative iron grates, used last week in barricades, were removed from around trees and outdoor terraces dismantled.
All subway stations in and around the famous avenue were closed for security reasons, Paris public transport company RATP said.
Last week, French authorities said 8,000 people demonstrated on the Champs-Elysees. Some of the protesters torched barriers and plywood boards. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to push back angry demonstrators.
Since the protests kicked off Nov. 17, two people were killed and hundreds injured in accidents stemming from the protests since they kicked off Nov. 17, and hundreds of protesters and police have been injured.
Meanwhile, hundreds of roads blockades were also held quietly across the country.
© 2018 The Canadian Press