Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Over 100 people injured this weekend, including 17 police.
Hundreds of arrests in Paris as ‘gilets jaunes’ protest turns violent
At least 100 people injured in street battles, with cars being torched and shops raided
Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Sun 2 Dec 2018 07.56 AEDT First published on Sun 2 Dec 2018 00.35 AEDT
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has insisted he will “never accept violence” after central Paris saw its worst unrest in a decade on Saturday when thousands of masked protesters fought running battles with police, torched cars, set fires to banks and houses, and burned makeshift barricades on the edges of demonstrations against fuel tax.
Near the Arc de Triomphe, one of Paris’s best-known monuments, masked men burned barricades, set fire to buildings, smashed fences and torched luxury cars on some of the most expensive streets in the city as riot police fired teargas and water cannon.
Then, by early evening, rioters spread around Paris in a game of cat and mouse with police. Luxury department stores on Boulevard Haussmann were evacuated as cars were set alight and windows smashed. Near the Louvre, metal grilles were ripped down at the Tuileries Garden where fires were started. On the Place Vendôme, a hub of luxury jewellery shops and designer stores, rioters smashed windows and built barricades.
Anti-Macron graffiti was scrawled over the Arc de Triomphe near the tomb of the unknown soldier and protesters burst into the monument smashing up its lower floors before climbing on to the roof.
More than 250 people were arrested and at least 100 injured – including one protester who was in a serious condition on Saturday night – after the violence erupted on the margins of anti-fuel tax demonstrations held by the citizens’ protest movement known as the gilets jaunes (yellow vests).
Macron, who was attending the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, said he would lead an emergency meeting of senior government ministers after returning to Paris on Sunday morning. He said: “No cause justifies that security forces are attacked, shops pillaged, public or private buildings set on fire, pedestrians or journalists threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is sullied.”
Life in France can be very hard. Costs of living are high, and the economy has been stagnant for a long time, thanks to chronic French political disdain for ideas promoted by English speaking countries, like free markets and Capitalism.
Public transport in many parts of Paris is insanely dangerous – train drivers refuse to stop in some areas at night because of the risk of violent attack.
Pricing people out of their cars exposes ordinary working people, especially women, to seriously increased risk of violent attack.
President Macron is breathtakingly out of touch, in a country which has seen many out of touch politicians – President Macron once boasted that he intended to rule like a roman god.
The protests will most likely die down, or be brutally crushed by French security. But its just barely possible that the new tax increases have pushed the French people over the brink. If this is the case, how long will French security forces continue to oppose the rioters? President Macron’s new tax hike affects the extended families of poorly paid police and army personnel as much as it affects everyone else. Their children and womenfolk and aunties and cousins are also exposed to new risks, if they are forced to ditch their cars and travel on France’s unacceptably dangerous metro system.