Clashes broke out between dozens of demonstrators and police in Paris on the 23rd Saturday of Yellow Vest protests after authorities warned that rioters could return to the French capital to spark a new wave of violence.
Dozens of black-hooded demonstrators threw rocks at police and some set fire to motorcycles in the centre of the French capital, according to Reuters TV footage. Trash cans and several scooters were also set ablaze.
Police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades. Some officers also marched toward demonstrators to control the crowd and funnel people to Paris’ Place de la Republique, where they were authorized to demonstrate.
As of 1 p.m. GMT, 110 people had been arrested and placed in custody, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
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Several demonstrators clearly alluded to the catastrophic fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday, which prompted an outpouring of national sorrow and a rush by rich families and corporations to pledge around 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) for its reconstruction.
“Millions for Notre-Dame, what about for us, the poor?” read a sign worn by a demonstrator. “Everything for Notre-Dame, nothing for the miserables,” read another sign that evoked Victor Hugo’s well-known novel.
The city was on high alert after Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, said domestic intelligence services had informed him of a potential return of rioters intent on wreaking havoc in Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier and Bordeaux in a repeat of violent protests on March 16.
Large portions of the Paris metro network were closed and about 60,000 police were deployed across France, authorities said.
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The so-called Yellow Vest protests erupted in mid-November originally over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living but spiraled into a broader movement against President Emmanuel Macron and his drive for economic reforms.
The French leader was due to unveil policies to quell the grassroots movement on Monday before the blaze at Notre-Dame forced him to cancel the speech. He is now set to make his announcements next Thursday.
© 2019 Reuters