French violence flares as yellow vest protests enter fourth month

2019-03-17 06:23:00

Rioters set fire to a bank and ransacked stores on Paris' landmark shopping street in a new flare-up of violence as France's yellow vest protests against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms entered a fourth month on Saturday (March 16).

Police fired tear gas and water cannons as the protests turned violent again after weeks of relative calm during marches and declining numbers of participants.

A Banque Tarneaud branch spewed flames before firefighters arrived and rescued two people from the building, with eleven suffering minor injuries, the fire department said.

Rioters also set fire to an upmarket handbag store and two news-stands on the Champs Elysees avenue while scattered bonfires burned on the iconic thoroughfare.

Protesters lobbed cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of Paris' Arc de Triomphe monument, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December.

Police had arrested more than 150 protesters by late afternoon as demonstrators looted stores around the Champs Elysees and ransacked the high-end Fouquet's restaurant.

However, the weekly demonstrations, held every Saturday in Paris and other cities, have been generally getting smaller since December, when Paris saw some of the worst vandalism and looting in decades.

After the spike in violence, Macron offered a package of concessions worth more than 10 billion euros ($11 billion) aimed at boosting the incomes of the poorest workers and pensioners.

His government ordered police to crack down on the protests in January, leading to complaints of police brutality.

The 41-year-old former investment banker also launched a series of national debates which are aimed at determining what policies people want the government to focus on.

Saturday's protests coincide with the end of the debates.

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