Riot police blast tear gas at Yellow Vest activists who return fire with catapults as violence rages into ninth week after thousands flood French capital in tax fury
Tear gas and baton charges were used by French police on thousands of Yellow Vest protestors threatening the Arc de Triomphe in Paris today during more mass anti-government demonstrations.
The ugly scenes came on the 9th Saturday in a row of violence that now routinely reduces the capital city to a war zone.
In Paris, epicentre of the fiery street clashes and vandalism that have made global headlines, 5,000 riot police were on hand, using tall barricades and armoured vehicles to lock down the central Place de la Concorde and surrounding districts.
Hundreds of officers were also on guard on the Champs-Elysees, where banks, jewellery stores and other shops had boarded up windows in anticipation of renewed looting and violence.
Yet many cafes and retailers on the iconic avenue remained open for business, as several thousands of protesters marched calmly from the Place de la Bastille toward the Arc de Triomphe early in the afternoon.
Anti-Austerity Activists Bring Parts of London to Halt
Hundreds of protesters joined the crowd on London’s Regent Street. Many were wearing yellow vests with slogans such as ‘Britain is Broken’ written on the back.
Temporary stalls lined the road up from Oxford Circus station, where organisations such as Stand Up to Racism and the Socialist Party were handing out leaflets and placards.
People carrying drums prepared to march and political songs were being sung and large trade union banners were being held up in the crowd.
National organiser Ramona McCartney said the protest was an attempt to ‘take back the political space taken up by Brexit’.
Ms McCartney said protesters also wanted to show ‘solidarity with the left and working class in France by wearing the yellow vests today’.
France has seen weeks of nationwide anti-austerity demonstrations by the ‘gilets jaune’ movement.
The march slowly made its way down Haymarket, with protesters due to gather in Trafalgar Square, where speakers, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, were expected to address them from around 2pm.
Yellow vests knock out 60% of all speed cameras in France
Members of the “yellow vests” protest movement have vandalised almost 60% of France’s entire speed camera network, the interior minister has said.
Christophe Castaner said the wilful damage was a threat to road safety and put lives in danger.
The protest movement began over fuel tax increases, and saw motorists block roads and motorway toll booths.
Some protesters feel speed cameras are solely a revenue-generating measure which takes money from the poor.
The BBC’s Hugh Schofield, in Paris, said evidence of the vandalism is visible to anyone driving around France, with radar cameras covered in paint or black tape to stop them working.
But the extent of the damage – now believed to affect more than half of all 3,200 speed cameras in the country’s network – was unknown until Mr Castaner’s statement on Thursday.
He said the devices had been “neutralised, attacked, or destroyed” by members of the protest movement.
The yellow vests movement, or gilets jaunes in French, is named after the high-visibility vests that every driver in the country must keep in their vehicle.