French President Emmanuel Macron has convened an urgent crisis meeting after Paris’ worst riots in half a century left the iconic Arc de Triomphe trashed, shop windows smashed and cars burned.
Mr Macron, who returned from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires to chaos in the nation’s capital, warned Monday morning (Australian time) that no option had been ruled out in curbing the violent riots.
A massive cleanup effort was underway in Paris on Monday (Australian time) after more than 150,000 people joined angry protests against a new French fuel tax.
Riot police were overwhelmed as protesters ran amok in Paris’s wealthiest neighbourhoods on Sunday, torching cars, looting boutiques and smashing up luxury private homes and cafes.
More than 400 people were arrested and over 100 injured as several thousand police fought with the protesters.
The public was restricted by police from entering the affected areas as clean-up crews set about erasing graffiti, much of it targeting Mr Macron and some expressing anarchist sentiments such as “overthrow the bourgeoisie!”
A Paris City Hall official overseeing the clean-up said lasting damage might be caused to the historic Arc de Triomphe if crews were forced to erode the arch’s stonework to clean it.
“I’ve worked on monuments around Paris for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this at the Arc de Triomphe. It was carnage,” he said.
Authorities were caught off-guard by the escalation in violence after two weeks of nationwide unrest against fuel taxes and high living costs.
Half a dozen labourers replaced glass panes on the front of a Dior store on the Rue Royale, a short street in the heart of Paris.
Next door, a Chanel employee vacuumed shards of glass from the floor, while carpenters removed the plywood panels that had been protecting a Gucci shop.
On his return from Argentina, Macron paid an immediate visit to the Arc de Triomphe, the 19th-century arch that towers over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The protests began as a backlash against Mr Macron’s fuel tax hikes, but have mined a vein of deep dissatisfaction felt towards his liberal economic reforms, which many voters feel favour the wealthy and big business.
Mr Macron said higher diesel taxes are needed to fight climate change by spurring motorists to drive cleaner cars.
The violence in Paris was the worst in the elegant centre of the capital since a 1968 student uprising that brought France to its knees.
Authorities said violent groups from the far right and far left, as well as “thugs” from the suburbs, had infiltrated the so-called yellow vest movement in Paris on Saturday.
Boulevards that should have been packed with tourists and Christmas shoppers resembled battle zones, as smoke and tear gas hung in the air and debris littered the ground.
Hotels and department stores in the capital say they stand to lose millions as a result of the unrest.