Posted on: BBC | December 8th, 2018
Police in Paris have fired rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters as a fourth weekend of anti-government protests turned violent.
The clashes came after up to 8,000 demonstrators gathered in the city centre. More than 500 people have been taken into custody.
At least 30 people have been injured, including three police officers.
The “yellow vest” movement opposed fuel tax rises but ministers say it has been hijacked by “ultra-violent” protesters.
Some 8,000 police officers and 12 armoured vehicles have been deployed in Paris, and nearly 90,000 officers were deployed countrywide.
Last week, hundreds of people were arrested and scores injured in violence in Paris – some of the worst street clashes in the French capital for decades.
What is happening this weekend?
There have been a number of confrontations. Some protesters have been seen smashing shop fronts, painting walls with graffiti and setting fire to cars.
Video footage showed one demonstrator being hit in the torso with a rubber bullet while standing in front of a line of police with his hands up. Two photographers working for Le Parisien were also hit, the newspaper reported.
Water cannon were deployed on a street east of the city centre.
By 17:00 local time (16:000 GMT), different groups of protesters were converging on Place de la République. As well as the yellow-vest demonstration, a climate-change march was also being held in the city.
The vandals move in
As evening descends, the focus has shifted away from the Champs-Elysées to the surrounding streets and boulevards.
This is where the genuine yellow-vest protesters are outnumbered by groups of political agitators and common vandals.
They are torching cars and smashing shop windows, much as they did last week.
The riot police are reacting swiftly – charging rioters and sending in snatch squads to seize suspects. It is a scene of sporadic violence, but compared to last Saturday, the forces of law and order appear to be more in control.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the numbers of arrests were greater than during the whole of the previous weekend.
“We will ensure that the rest of Saturday unfolds in the best possible conditions,” he said.
The security forces are seeking to prevent a repeat of last weekend in the capital, where the Arc de Triomphe was vandalised and police were attacked.
Six matches in the top tier of France’s football league were postponed. The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and other sites have been closed all day in Paris.
How have the protests spread?
Demonstrations are being held in several other cities including Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble, where a local leader of the yellow vests is reported to have been arrested.
Protests against climate change are also taking place in various locations as well as Paris.
The sentiment of the anti-government protests has inspired other spin-off protests in nearby countries. About 100 people were arrested in the capital Brussels. Some threw paving stones, fireworks, flares and other objects at police, according to AP news agency.
In the Netherlands, a protest was held outside parliament in The Hague, with an estimated 100 participants.
Where are we with the yellow vest movement?
The “gilets jaunes” protesters are so-called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.
The BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Paris says that over the past few weeks, the social media movement has morphed from a protest over fuel prices to a leaderless spectrum of interest groups and differing demands.
Its core aim, to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families, still has widespread support, our correspondent says.
An opinion poll on Friday showed a dip in support for the protests, but it still stood at 66%.
President Emmanuel Macron’s ratings have fallen amid the crisis, and he is planning a national address next week, his office has said. Some have criticised him for keeping too low a profile.
What has the government conceded?
The government has said it is scrapping the unpopular fuel tax increases in its budget and has frozen electricity and gas prices for 2019.
The problem is that protests have erupted over other issues.
Granting concessions in some areas may not placate all the protesters, some of whom are calling for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions, easier university requirements and even the resignation of the president.
Some of Mr Macron’s critics call him “the president of the rich”.
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