Yellow Vest demonstrators returned to the streets of Paris and other French cities on Saturday, and some were met by police with tear gas and water cannons as the authorities pledged zero tolerance to violence.
Thousands of people, both locals and those coming from other parts of the country, are rallying in the French capital. Around 5,000 riot police with special equipment and armored vehicles oversaw the protests.
Clashes eventually erupted at the iconic Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, with police using tear gas and water cannons to calm the angry crowds. At least 43 people were detained for carrying prohibited items, the city authorities confirmed.
“We’ve come to Paris to make ourselves heard, and we wanted to see for ourselves at least once what’s going on here,” a man, who travelled to Paris from western France to attend the protest, told AFP.
Around 1,000 demonstrators also made their way to the hippodrome and caused a delay of races in the horseracing town of Chantilly, north of Paris.
Outside the capital, major Yellow Vest protests engulfed Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg, and other cities.
In Nimes, rioters attempted to storm city hall and police deployed tear gas against them.
Clashes were also reported in Bourges in central France, where the local authorities said that 5,000 were rallying.
The French government earlier vowed zero tolerance for violence at the protests, with 80,000 security personnel deployed across France on the weekend.
The Yellow Vest movement, which took its name from the high-visibility jackets worn by the demonstrators, kicked off in November over a government-proposed hike in fuel taxes. As the weekend protests saw more people participating and started turning violent, the government dropped the planned increase.
But the demonstrations continued as the movement morphed into wider discontent with President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business agenda, a decline in living standards, and growing inequality.
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