France fuel protests: Tear gas fired in clashes in Paris

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Media captionClashes broke out before the official demonstration even began.

Riot police and protesters have clashed in central Paris during a third weekend of “yellow vest” rallies sparked by rising fuel prices.

Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon on the Champs Elysees while masked protesters hurled projectiles at officers.

What began as protests over President Macron’s fuel tax has transformed into general anger at high living costs.

Mr Macron says his fuel policies are needed to combat global warming.

Earlier this week, he tried to strike a conciliatory tone, saying he was open to ideas about how the fuel tax could be applied.

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Media captionFrance fuel protests: Who are the people in the yellow vests?

But his speech does not appear to have gone far enough in assuaging people of the view that he is out of touch with ordinary people.

At least 65 people have been injured, including 11 members of the security forces.

What is the latest on the clashes?

Saturday’s clashes began even before the official demonstration started in central Paris, as police locked down the popular tourist avenue of Champs Elysees and searched people as they were going in.

Several shops, banks and cafes had boarded up their windows before about 5,500 people descended on the area.

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At least one car was overturned and set on fire

Among the peaceful demonstrators, who held up slogans such as “Macron, stop treating us like idiots”, there were those hiding their faces with masks and goggles.

Police fired tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades to disperse protesters who were trying to tear down the barricades. A number of police officers, wearing protective gear and helmets, were spattered with vivid yellow paint.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who visited the scene, tweeted that there were “1,500 agitators outside the security perimeter who came to fight”.

He called the protests “an insult to the republic.”

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said there had been 107 arrests.

Protests galvanise a nation

By Hugh Schofield, Paris

It is quite clear there were agitators or “casseurs” at the sharp end of the clashes with police. We saw groups of people both from the anarchist far-left and from the nationalist far-right. They were tooled up and ready for a fight.

The vast majority of “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) who came to Paris to protest were not in that category. There were many who were happy to look on, jeering police and providing moral encouragement to the front lines.

And then there were the crowds who hung back – genuinely wanting nothing to do with the trouble. Inevitably even these people agreed it was the police who had started it all, by wanton use of tear gas.

The numbers were small, just a few thousand. But across the country the cause is extremely popular. They say – quite proudly – that they are the “sans-dents”, the great unwashed, the forgotten majority from the sticks. And they’ve had enough.

What else do we know about the protests?

PM Philippe said at least 36,000 people turned out across France for this the third weekend of the “gilets jaunes” rallies – so called because the protesters donned the yellow vest required to be carried in every vehicle by law before blocking roads, causing widespread traffic jams.

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The movement has grown via social media to encompass rising anger at high taxes and living costs, and broader criticism of President Macron’s economic policies. It has supporters across the political spectrum, from far left to far right, although Mr Macron has accused his political opponents of hijacking the movement in order to block his reform programme.

Our correspondent says that because the movement has grown via social media, it does not have an identifiable leadership or a coherent demand. What it does have, he says, is a lot of co-ordination via Facebook and a lot of support from the public.

Nearly 300,000 people took part in the first country-wide demonstration, on 17 November.

Most demonstrators have remained peaceful, although more than 200 people were injured, several seriously. One person died when they were struck by a panicked driver and a motorcyclist was killed a few days later, when they were hit by a van making a sudden turn in the traffic chaos.

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