News World Paris is burning: Firebombs and wild protests rock French capital

Paris is burning: Firebombs and wild protests rock French capital

French riot police race to confront protesters torching shops and cars in the heart of Paris. Photo: AP
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French riot police have fought street battles with protesters in central Paris in a third weekend of nationwide unrest against high living costs.

Police have arrested almost 300 people in Paris while almost 100 were injured as protesters hurled projectiles at riot officers, burned cars and smashed shop fronts.

In some areas, groups of masked men roamed freely on Saturday, smashing properties, burning cars and vandalising banks.

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas and sprayed water at protesters at the top of the Champs-Elysees boulevard, at the Tuilleries Garden near the Louvre museum, and other sites across the city, including Opera and Place de la Bastille.

More than a dozen metro stations were closed.

The protests, which began as a backlash against President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel-tax hikes aimed at lowering emissions of greenhouse gases, have tapped into a vein of deep dissatisfaction with the 40-year-old leader’s economic reforms, which many voters feel favour the wealthy and big business.

Mr Macron, in Argentina for a G20 summit, cancelled a planned visit to Poland on Monday for a climate change summit.

He said he would convene ministers to discuss the crisis upon his return to France on Sunday.

The mayor of Paris’ 8th district, Jeanne d’Hauteserre, said: “We are in a state of insurrection, I’ve never seen anything like it”.

A police car burns on the streets of the riot-torn french capital. Photo: AP

The popular rebellion erupted out of nowhere on November 17 and spread quickly via social media, with protesters in yellow vests blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots.

A police sniper trains his rifle on the scenes of anarchy on the street below. Photo:LeMonde/Twitter

Addressing a news conference in Buenos Aires, Macron said no cause justified the looting of stores, attacks on security forces or torching of property.

The violence, he said, had nothing to do with the peaceful expression of legitimate grievances.

“I will always respect differences. I will always listen to opposition, but I will never accept violence,” Macron said.

Protesters smashed the windows of Paris shops, including branches of Chanel, Apple and Dior, where they daubed a wooden board “Merry Mayhem”.

Billowing black smoke engulfs a street normally thronging with chic shoppers in the ‘Opera district. Photo: AP

Security officials were locked inside the Interior Ministry for crisis talks for several hours during Saturday afternoon.

The skirmishes in Paris broke out early on Saturday, amid concern that violent far-right and far-left groups were infiltrating the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) movement.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said most of those arrested were regular “yellow vests” who had been egged on by fringe groups bent on stirring trouble.

Unrest erupted in several towns and cities across France, from Charleville Mezieres in the northeast to Marseille in the south.

In the Riviera city of Nice trucks blocked access to the airport, and in the central town of Puy-en-Velay the police headquarters was set on fire.

-with AAP