Weekly protests in Paris turned violent on Saturday as protesters smashed windows on the Champs-Élysées. The protests, which have gone on for 18 straight weeks, had been calmer recently, but grew in size and violence this past weekend. Noemie Bisserbe reports for The Wall Street Journal:
French officials vowed to step up a crackdown on violent protesters, a day after clashes erupted during the 18th straight Saturday of yellow-vest protests that caught authorities off guard and put more pressure on President Emmanuel Macron.
Protesters fought with police, several dozen luxury stores and restaurants were vandalized or ransacked, and a bank was set on fire near the famous Champs-Élysées. Police detained 274 protesters on Saturday. About 60 protesters were injured, along with 29 police officers and a firefighter.
The violence shattered the sense of relative calm that had pervaded protests in recent weeks. Turnout had declined steadily since the start of the year and demonstrations had taken a peaceful turn.
Mr. Macron, who was skiing in the Pyrénées Mountains, cut his trip short to attend an emergency meeting at the Interior Ministry on Saturday evening. He called for “strong decisions” against individuals taking advantage of the protests to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.”
“A lot of things have been done since November, but today very clearly shows that on this issue, in those specific cases, we’re not there yet,” Mr. Macron said.
The rioting was a reminder of how volatile the movement remains, with its ability to muster tens of thousands of protesters on a weekly basis. Saturday’s protest saw a slight uptick in attendance, with 32,300 yellow vests on hand, including 10,000 in Paris, the Interior Ministry said.
About 28,600 yellow vests took to the streets the week before, compared with more than a quarter million during the first protest on Nov. 17.
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