'Yellow-vest' rioting in Paris as anti-Macron protests persist

'Yellow Vest' protesters loot Paris stores

PARIS IN FLAMES: Tensions in France ERUPT- Riot police fire tear gas at furious protestors

Yellow vest protesters gathered in far greater numbers than in recent weeks for the 18th round of demonstrations on Saturday, set fire to a bank and ransacking a high-end restaurant in Paris on Saturday.

A bank on the ground level of a residential building was targeted. Police said 42 protestors, 17 of their own officers and one firefighter were injured.

Smoke and tear gas shrouded the Champs-Elysées and at least 109 people were arrested in the worst outbreak of violence on the fringes of a "yellow vest" demonstration in Paris for several weeks.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner condemned the violence as the work of "professional trouble-makers" who had "infiltrated" the march and said he had ordered police to "react with the greatest firmness to these unacceptable attacks".

Protest organizers had hoped to make a splash Saturday, which marks the 4-month anniversary of the yellow vest movement, which started November 17, and the end of the "Great Debate" that the French president organized to respond to protesters' concerns about sinking living standards, stagnant wages and high unemployment.

Yellow vest groups representing teachers, unemployed people and labour unions were among those that organized dozens of rallies and marches.

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And the number of yellow vest protesters remains smaller than early in the movement, when it drew masses to the streets nationwide and polled showed a majority of French people supporting their cause.

The Bank Tarneaud branch was located near Champs Elysees, the central axe of the weekly protests.

Saturday's turnout was seen a test of the ongoing strength of the movement, which began in November over fuel tax hikes and quickly ballooned into a rebellion against Macron's policies, seen by the protesters as geared towards the rich.

Protesters threw cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of Paris' Arc de Triumphed monument, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December.

Named after the high visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the revolt swelled into a broader movement against Macron and his reforms.

But many "yellow vests" dismissed the consultation exercise as a smoke-screen.

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But for seven hours they continued to be pelted with paving stones by mostly black-clad demonstrators.

From early morning protesters began pouring into the capital by train and vehicle from around the country for what they called an "ultimatum" to Macron.

Macron, who was caught off guard when the grassroots movement erupted in November, loosened the state's purse strings to the tune of 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) to try defuse the protests.

He then travelled the length and breadth of the country, engaging in marathon debates with local politicians and voters. Bracing for a potential uptick in protester numbers and violence, the French capital deployed more police Saturday than in previous weekends.

"We are dealing with several hundred, several thousand in some cases, highly determined people who are there to create disorder", Philippe said.

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