Paris riots: 'Things are going to blow up tonight'

  • 09/12/2018

French riot police have clashed with 'yellow vest' protesters in central Paris during the latest wave of demonstrations against high living costs.

Protesters played a cat-and-mouse game with riot police, moving from the heavily guarded Champs Elysees area to other parts of the city, setting cars, garbage bins and wooden shutters on fire.

More than 30 people have been injured in Saturday's demonstrations, where police fired tear gas and used water cannons and horses to charge at protesters.

Authorities said some 31,000 people were demonstrating across France.

Riot police confront protesters in Paris.
Riot police confront protesters in Paris. Photo credit: Newshub.

About 8000 demonstrators were in Paris, where 600 people had been searched and arrested. More than 500 of them remained in custody after police found they carried potential weapons such as hammers, baseball bats and metal balls used in the French lawn game petanque.

There was less violence than last week, when rioters torched 112 cars and looted shops in the worst rioting in Paris since May 1968.

"We were on our knees and they shot tear gas at us. I am telling you, things are going to blow up tonight," said Yanis Areg, 21, from Paris.

A police source told Reuters he feared that things would get out of hand after nightfall.

'Yellow Vest' protesters in Paris.
'Yellow Vest' protesters in Paris. Photo credit: Newshub.
A protester calls for peace in Paris.
A protester calls for peace in Paris. Photo credit: Newshub.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe appealed for restraint.

"We will do all we can so that today can be a day without violence, so that the dialogue that we started this week can continue in the best possible circumstances," he said on French television.

On Tuesday, Philippe announced the government would suspend planned fuel tax increases for at least six months to help defuse weeks of protests.

The announcement marked the first U-turn by President Emmanuel Macron's government since he came to power 18 months ago.

About 89,000 police were deployed across France on Saturday, some 8000 of them in Paris. Much of the city looked like a ghost town, with museums and department stores closed on what should have been a festive pre-Christmas shopping day.

Dozens of streets were closed to traffic, while the Eiffel Tower and museums such as the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou were shut.

The protests spilled over into Belgium, where police also used tear gas and water cannons, making around 100 arrests.

The protests in Brussels focused largely on the European quarter, where many EU institutions are based.