January 12, 2019 11:02 am
Updated: January 12, 2019 6:01 pm

Police fire water cannon, tear gas in 9th weekend of yellow vest protests in Paris

WATCH: Paris police sprayed "Yellow Vest" protesters with water cannons and used tear gas as thousands continued to protest French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms for a ninth straight week Saturday.

A A

PARIS — Paris police fired water cannon and tear gas to push back “yellow vest” demonstrators from around the Arc de Triomphe monument on Saturday, in the ninth straight weekend of protests against French President Emmanuel Macron‘s economic reforms.

Story continues below

Thousands of protesters in Paris marched noisily but mostly peacefully through the Grands Boulevards shopping area in northern Paris, close to where a massive gas explosion in a bakery killed two firefighters and a Spanish tourist and injured nearly 50 people early on Saturday.

READ MORE: Yellow vest protesters march through French cities after Macron gov’t hardens stance

But small groups of demonstrators broke away from the designated route and threw bottles and other projectiles at the police.

Around the 19th-century Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs Elysees boulevard, riot police fired water cannon and tear gas at militant yellow-vest protesters after being pelted with stones and paint, witnesses said.

WATCH: ‘Yellow vests’ march through Paris in ninth round of protests

Groups of protesters also gathered on and around the Champs Elysees, the scene of disturbances in recent weeks, many of them calling loudly for Macron to resign.

“Macron, we are going to tear down your place!” one banner read.

READ MORE: 4 dead, dozens injured in explosion at Paris bakery

The Interior Ministry said it estimated that there were 32,000 demonstrators nationwide on Saturday, including 8,000 in Paris, below the 50,000 counted last week and well below the record 282,000 nationwide on Nov. 17, the first day of yellow vest protests.

But the number of demonstrators in Paris was well above the past two weekends, when authorities counted just 3,500 people on Jan. 5 and only 800 on Dec. 29.

Much of central Paris was in lockdown on the first week of post-Christmas sales with bridges across the Seine river closed and official buildings such as parliament and the Elysee presidential palace protected by police barriers.

WATCH: ‘Yellow vests’ march through Paris in ninth round of protests

In Paris, 121 “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) were arrested, some for carrying objects that could be used as weapons, police said. By nightfall, there had been no looting or burning of cars as seen in previous weeks.

There were also thousands of marchers in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulon in southern France as well as Strasbourg in the east and the central city of Bourges.

Bourges authorities said nearly 5,000 yellow vests stuck to the designated demonstration area. The historical city centre was off-limits for demonstrators, but some 500 protesters made their way to the centre where they scuffled with police and set garbage bins on fire.

READ MORE: Saskatoon yellow vest rally protests federal carbon tax

Many businesses in Bourges had boarded themselves up to avoid damage and authorities had removed street furniture and building site materials that could be used for barricades.

In Strasbourg, up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the European Parliament building and later marched to the center of the city on the Rhine river border with Germany. No serious violence or looting was reported there.

WATCH: France to crack down on ‘yellow vest’ protests

More than 80,000 police were on duty for the protests nationwide, including 5,000 in Paris.

The “yellow vests” take their name from the high-visibility jackets they wear. Their rage stems from a squeeze on household incomes and a belief that Macron, a former investment banker seen as close to big business, is indifferent to their hardships.

READ MORE: Poll reveals majority of French people unhappy with Macron amid ‘yellow vest’ protests

Macron, often criticized for a monarchical manner, is to launch a national debate on Jan. 15 to try to mollify the yellow vest protest, which has shaken his administration.

The debate, to be held on the internet and in town halls, will focus on four themes – taxes, green energy, institutional reform and citizenship. But aides to Macron have said changing the course of Macron’s reforms aimed at liberalizing the economy will be off limits.

WATCH: Former pro boxer takes on French riot police during protest

 

© 2019 Reuters

Report an error

Comments

Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.