French President Macron considers banning protests on Champs Elysees

Tuesday, 19 Mar, 2019

Tourists took pictures as shop owners tried to fix broken windows and city workers scrubbed away graffiti, much of it targeting Macron.

French political and security officials, meanwhile, met to come up with better plans to counter the violence. The demonstrators also set fire to a bank on the ground floor of an apartment building.

Rights groups have tried to have the heavy rubber bullets used by the French police banned, noting that France is one of only a handful of Western countries to use them. A mother and baby almost died.

After the weekly protests dwindled recently, protesters were hoping to breathe new life into their movement against a president who they see as favouring the elite.

"[French President Emmanuel] Macron was busy after a nice little tour of Africa, where he was probably selling weapons mainly", Mercier told Becker.

"We are neither pariahs nor terrorists", Thierry-Paul Valette, co-founder of the "Yellow Vest Citizens" group, said in a statement.

Protesters sought to raise their profile Saturday to mark end of a national debate that Macron had organized to respond to their concerns about sinking living standards, stagnant wages and high unemployment.

Protest organizers had hoped to make a splash Saturday, which marks the 4-month anniversary of yellow vest movement that started November 17.

The Paris protest was one of several in the capital on Saturday, where tens of thousands of climate campaigners also held a demonstration to demand that the French government uphold its commitments on reducing emissions.

"You have to take responsibility and engage, with the possibility that people will get hurt", said Frederic Lagache of the Alliance police union. Nationwide, protesters were estimated at 32,300, compared with 28,600 last week.

Since the "yellow vest" movement began in November, originally as a protest against fuel taxes before morphing into a general denunciation of Macron's politics, the government has struggled to neutralize the threat.

A German factory worker who traveled to Paris to show solidarity with yellow vest protesters said he agreed with the destruction inasmuch as banks are "the biggest problem in the world".

French President Emmanuel Macron - who cut his ski holiday short following a tour of Africa - vowed on Twitter Saturday evening that "strong decisions" were coming to prevent more violence.

"There are people today who try by all means.to damage the Republic by breaking, by destroying things at the risk of killing someone", Macron said.

Later Prime Minister Edouard Philippe admitted there had been security "flaws" which would have to be addressed. They dress in black, including masks and hoods to make it harder for police to identify them, and often target symbols of capitalism or globalization. "We're trying to reassure all the employees and then there are those who live here, too", said Jean-Noel Reinhardt, head of the Committee Champs-Elysees, a local association with 180 members, a lot of them businesses.