Paris Protests: Yellow Vests Clash with Riot Police on Champs-Elysees
Paris riot police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters demonstrating for a second weekend against rising fuel prices.
Violence erupted on Paris’ best-known avenue, the Champs-Elysées, as protesters tried to get through a security cordon around sensitive sites.
About 5,000 “yellow vest” protesters had converged on the Champs-Elysées. At least 13 people were arrested after clashing with police.
Organizers billed the latest protests as “act two” in their rolling campaign.
Named after their distinctive high-visibility attire, the “yellow vest” protesters oppose an increase in fuel duty on diesel. All drivers in France have to carry the jackets in their cars as part of safety equipment for use in a breakdown.
Along with the familiar red reflective triangle which must be placed behind a broken-down vehicle on the side of a road, the high-visibility jacket – or “gilet jaune” – must be worn by the driver outside the car.
Failure to wear the jacket after a breakdown or accident can result in a €135 ($153) fine under a law introduced in 2008.
Synonymous with driving, the yellow vests have now morphed into the uniform of the movement against higher fuel costs.
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Demonstrators on the Champs-Elysées came up against metal barriers and a police-enforced perimeter designed to stop them reaching key buildings such as the prime minister’s official residence.
Some demonstrators ripped up paving stones and threw firecrackers at police while shouting slogans calling for President Emmanuel Macron to resign.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner accused the demonstrators of being influenced by the leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen. However, she accused him, on Twitter, of dishonesty.
Christophe Castaner put the number of people taking part across France at 23,000 by 11AM local time – much less than the first day of Yellow Jacket protests, which drew some 280,000 people a week ago.
The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23% over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 ($1.71) per liter, its highest point since the early 2000s.
World oil prices did rise before falling back again but the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per liter on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, as part of a campaign for cleaner cars and fuel.
The decision to impose a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol on January 1, 2019, was seen as the final straw.
President Emmanuel Macron has blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise. He also said more tax on fossil fuels was needed to fund renewable energy investments.