Stunned Parisians clean up wealthy central district after worst riots since 1968

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Stunned Parisians clean up wealthy central district after worst riots since 1968

  • *Popular ‘yellow vest’ protests infiltrated by extremists
  • Clean-up at Arc de Triomphe may cause lasting damage – official
  • Workers remove burnt cars from streets, repair boutiques
  • Some Parisians ask if the army should intervene

A yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store front the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store front the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
France’s President Emmanuel Macron waves to people after a visit of the Arc de Triomphe the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, and Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
France’s President Emmanuel Macron arrives to meet firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
France’s President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with a firefighter as he visits firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS
A yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Workmen cleared away burnt hulks of cars, scrubbed the defaced Arc de Triomphe monument and replaced the shattered windows of luxury boutiques in Paris on Sunday after the worst riots in the centre of the capital in half a century.

Several thousand riot police were overwhelmed on Saturday as they fought running battles with protesters in the shadows of some of Paris’ fabled landmarks and through its fanciest shopping districts. More than 400 people were arrested and more than 100 injured, shocking Parisians and tourists alike.

At the base of the 19th-century Arc de Triomphe, police kept the public back as cleanup crews set about erasing graffiti, much of it targeting President Emmanuel Macron and some exuding anarchist sentiment such as, “Overthrow the bourgeoisie!”

“I’ve worked on monuments around Paris for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this at the Arc de Triomphe. It was carnage,” a Paris City Hall official overseeing the cleanup said as his team worked on a graffito reading “Macron resign”.



France's President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with a firefighter as he visits firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERSFrance's President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with a firefighter as he visits firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

France’s President Emmanuel Macron shakes hand with a firefighter as he visits firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

Lasting damage might be caused if crews are forced to erode the arch’s stonework to render it clean, he said.

Authorities were caught off-guard by the escalation in violence after two weeks of nationwide unrest against fuel taxes and high living costs, known as the “yellow vest” movement after the fluorescent jackets worn by the protesters.



A vandalized car is removed the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane MaheA vandalized car is removed the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A vandalized car is removed the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Vandalized cars are seen on a street the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
A vandalized bank front is seen the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Vandalized cars are seen on Avenue Foch the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
A vandalized car is seen the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A man passes a vandalized bus stop the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
A vandalized bus stop is seen the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Cleanup operations continue under the message, “The Yellow Vests will Triumph” written on the Arc de Triomphe, the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel taxes, stand up in front of a police water canon at the Place de l’Etoile near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo
French riot police stand guard near a barricade during clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel taxes, at the Place de l’Etoile in Paris, France, December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo
A person makes a picture outside a vandalized restaurant the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
French riot police stand guard at the Arc de Triomphe during clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel taxes, at the Place de l’Etoile in Paris, France, December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

On the Rue Royale in the heart of Paris, half a dozen labourers gingerly replaced glass panes on the front of a Dior store. Next door, a Chanel employee vacuumed shards of glass from the floor, while carpenters removed the plywood panels that had been protecting a Gucci shop.

The government said it would consider a state of emergency in the face of unrest across the country.



France's President Emmanuel Macron, France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERSFrance's President Emmanuel Macron, France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

The violence in Paris was the worst in the elegant centre of the capital since the May 1968 student uprising that brought France to its knees.

“We’re already afraid of what’s going to happen next week. The violence is escalating at an exponential rate,” said Claude, a well-heeled woman who lives next to the Belle Armee brasserie that was set ablaze. “The state is losing control. They cannot let this happen. Maybe the army should intervene.”



France's President Emmanuel Macron, France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERSFrance's President Emmanuel Macron, France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

France’s President Emmanuel Macron, France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez and Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, France December 2, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

Parisians and tourists surveyed the aftermath, capturing the moment on smartphones as the capital digested the chaos that now poses a serious challenge to Macron’s presidency.

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“Macron has a problem on his hands. Everyone’s fed up. He’s got to listen more,” said Amaya Fuster, eyeing graffiti daubed on a Printemps department store window that read: “There’s enough money in the coffers of businessmen. Share the riches!”



A yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane MaheA yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A yellow vest hangs inside a vandalized store the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France, December 2, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Authorities said violent groups from the far right and far left as well as “thugs” from the suburbs had infiltrated the yellow vests movement in Paris on Saturday.

There were signs that some of the hardcore troublemakers were part of the anarchist and anti-capitalist movement: banks, insurance companies, upmarket private homes and cafes and glitzy boutiques were among the properties smashed up and looted.

The protests are taking a toll on the economy. On Saturday, boulevards that should have been packed with tourists and Christmas shoppers resembled battle zones, as smoke and tear gas hung in the air and debris littered the ground. Hotels and department stores in the capital stand to lose millions.

“We thought, ‘Oh, that’s our holiday over’,” said Yao Lei, a Chinese tourist from Shanghai who arrived in Paris at dawn and had received video images of the chaos on his flight.

“We’re here to shop but we wondered if we’d have to go straight to Milan instead.”

Reuters

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