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Clashes break out in Paris as 'yellow vest' activists mark year of protests

Chris Baynes
Getty Images

Riot police have fired tear gas and deployed a water cannon in Paris as violence marred demonstrations to mark a year of anti-government “yellow vest” protests.

Groups of youths, many clad in black and hiding their faces, torched bins and cars and hurled projectiles at officers as clashes broke out on the streets of France’s capital following a day of largely peaceful activism across the country.

At least 105 people were arrested and Paris’s police chief, Didier Lallement, denounced “people who came not to defend a cause but to destroy things”.

Police used tear gas as protesters tried to smash windows and enter into a shopping centre. Some were seen throwing stones at officers and setting fire to several vehicles in the southeast of the capital. Earlier, the windows of a bank and several bus stops in the area had been broken.

Mr Lallement noted that most protesters marched in a “quite serene” atmosphere in another demonstration from northwestern Paris to Bastille plaza, in the east of the capital.

All demonstrations were banned in a large perimeter including the Champs-Elysees, the presidential palace and both houses of parliament.

The yellow vest protests, named for the high-visibility jackets worn by demonstrators, erupted in mid-November 2018 over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living. The demonstrations spiralled into a broader movement against president Emmanuel Macron and his economic reforms.

At its peak in late 2018, the movement involved up to 300,000 people and brought the country to a standstill.

The outpouring of anger at perceived social and economic injustice eventually prompted Mr Macron to reverse some of his tax plans and to offer €10bn euros (£8.5bn) in measures to address protesters’ concerns.​

The movement has lost strength in recent months, going from tens of thousands of participants to just a few thousand, but its leaders called for people to turn out on Saturday to mark the first anniversary.

Cathy Nauleau, 44, came to Paris from eastern France to take part as “we’re still exactly in the same place.” She added: “We won’t give up.”

Rosa Drissi, who joined the movement on its first day, said she still struggled to make ends meet with pay of just €800 (£684) a month. She said she was protesting in Paris “for my retirement, and for my buying power.”

“We were novices at the beginning. We didn’t know politics; we didn’t know how to be in the streets. We didn’t know how to protest,” she said, adding that the movement had now honed its tactics.

Demonstrators were also taking place across country, particularly at roundabouts protesters first blocked traffic as the movement took root, but no violence was reported outside of the capital.

Authorities have banned demonstrators from tourists spots such as the Eiffel Tower and many subway stations were closed on Saturday.

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