French government considers state of emergency over Paris yellow vests protests

France is considering imposing a state of emergency to stop a repeat of the violence in Paris that left swathes of the city centre looking like a war zone and injured 133 people.

President Emmanuel Macron returned from a G20 summit in Argentina on Sunday morning and went directly to the Arc de Triomphe to assess the damage at the historic monument caused by so-called “yellow vest” anti-tax protestors.

The arch, which lies at the top of the prestigious Champs Elysées avenue, was where the violence kicked off early on Saturday morning before spreading as far as the Louvre and the Opera districts.

Mr Macron was due to hold a lunchtime meeting with the prime minister, interior minister and top security service officials at the Elysée presidential palace to discuss the unrest in Paris and many other French regions.

When asked if the government might impose a state of emergency, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said it would be among the options considered at the Elysée meeting.

"It is out of the question that each weekend becomes a meeting or ritual for violence," he said.

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The comment came as calls were being made on social media for the “yellow vests,” whose revolt was sparked by planned fuel tax hikes, to meet again next Saturday on the Champs Elysées.

The yellow vest movement, which began just a few weeks ago, has morphed into a broad opposition front to Mr Macron, a 40-year-old pro-business centrist elected in May 2017 who is accused of being the “president of the rich” and of neglecting ordinary French people.

Protesters defaced the city with slogans such as "the yellow vests will triumph"Credit:
GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images

Violent anarchist and far-right groups have since infiltrated it and are thought to be behind many of Saturday’s clashes in Paris.

Mr Macron faces a dilemma in how to respond to the "yellow vests", not least because they are a grassroots movement with no formal leaders and a wide range of demands.

An estimated 75,000 demonstrators, most of them peaceful, were counted across the country on Saturday, the interior ministry said.

 

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