Violence erupted on the streets of France for the 16th weekend in a row as yellow vests protested against the government’s economic policies they see as favoring the rich.
Protesters set fire to bins and threw smoke bombs as they clashed with police who used tear gas to control crowds.
Demonstrators wore red hoodies with the tricolor cockade – an emblem of the French Revolution – and stood with their mouths taped shut.
Crowds gathered at the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris as a march was planned through the affluent neighborhoods of the capital.
It comes as French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday reiterated a call for calm, pointing at ‘unacceptable’ outbreaks of violence since the movement began in November.
A protester wearing a yellow vest waves a French flag as he stands on the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration by the ‘yellow vests’ movement in Paris, France
Protesters kick burning bins during an anti-government demonstration in Lille, northern France
Protesters stand with their mouths taped closed, their faces painted white and wearing red hoodies, as two men behind them wearing yellow vests hold smoke grenades in Lille
A demonstrator from Belgium stands with blood pouring from her mouth after she was injured during the demonstrations in Lille
Demonstrators wearing red hoodies and each carrying a different message across their backs stands in front of crowds of yellow vests
Yellow vest protesters are backed underneath a shopfront and hold their clothing up to their faces as tear gas streams through the air in Lille
Demonstrators stood wearing red hoodies with the tricolor cockade – an emblem of the French Revolution – and stood with their mouths taped shut
Hundreds of yellow vest protesters march down the Champs-Elysees as Emmanuel Macron’s headache continues for the 16th consecutive Saturday
A yellow vest protester shakes hands with a riot police officer in a side street off the Champs Elysees
Organisers say they want to maintain pressure on the government as a two-month ‘grand debate’ initiated by Macron to let ordinary French people express their views on the country’s economic and democratic issues is ending this month.
It follows months of continual unrest, including riots that saw the Arc de Triomphe and other public monuments attacked, with shops looted and set on fire.
Sophie Tissier, a coordinator of the Paris protest, told said: ‘We keep protesting every Saturday because Macron doesn’t respond at all to the yellow vests’ demands. We want to rebuild our democracy and change today’s political system.’
‘Macron is contemptuous and … does not even try to understand that there are people that are living in great poverty and precariousness, and that there are so many inequalities,’ she added.
Other protests are taking place in France’s major cities of Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Lille and others.
The movement was named after the fluorescent vests that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes, but have expanded into a broader public rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favor big businesses and the wealthy over ordinary workers.
Macron has since announced a package of measures worth about 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) to boost workers’ and retirees’ purchasing power and launched a national debate that is taking place through meetings across France and a dedicated website until mid-March.
Many yellow vests reject the debate which they consider as politically driven to serve the government’s interests.
Demonstrators march with a tricolor cockade – an emblem of the French Revolution – in Lille, northern Paris
A protester wearing a gas mask holds a yellow smoke bomb during the protests against Macron’s economic policies
A yellow vest protester wears a yellow mask and vest as French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday reiterated a call for calm
Protesters stand in tear gas smoke during a yellow vest anti-government demonstration in Lille, northern France
Crowds gather in Lille in the 16th weekend of unrest, including riots that saw the Arc de Triomphe and other public monuments attacked, with shops looted and set on fire.
Protesters gather in Paris, France and other cities to show they are still mobilized against the government’s economic policies they see as favoring the rich
Eric Drouet, center, one of yellow vests leaders chats with supporters in Paris
Today’s ugly scenes are typical of those that have regularly reduced Paris and other towns and cities to a war zone
Support for the movement has ebbed in recent weeks as it has splintered and outbreaks of violence continue.
Last weekend, the extremist views of some protesters erupted in a torrent of anti-Semitic insults hurled at noted philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the sidelines of a Paris protest. The assault came days after the French government reported a huge rise in incidents of anti-Semitism last year.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.
Today’s ugly scenes are typical of those that have regularly reduced Paris and other towns and cities to a war zone.
The yellow vest activists, who have brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets over the past three months, are now trying to achieve electoral success but the movement is politically divided and has no appointed leader.
President Emmanuel Macron – the target of many demonstrators’ anger – seems to be clawing back support as he tries to quell the movement with a national political debate. Recent polls show Macron’s approval ratings rising.
Several competing groups of yellow vests are getting ready to present candidates for the European Parliament election in May, while other figures insist the movement must remain non-political.
Around 69,000 people nationwide took part in French protests last month, down from more than 80,000 the previous two weekends, according to the French Interior Ministry.
The yellow vests movement began in November and was named after the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists must carry.