Hundreds arrested in third weekend of Paris protests against rising fuel prices
PARIS — More than 200 people were arrested and dozens were injured in Paris on Saturday after clashes erupted between police and protesters, according to a police spokesman.
The spokesman told CNN at least 92 people had been injured, including 14 police officers, after protesters with the “gilets jaune” or “yellow vest” movement took to the streets to demonstrate against rising gas prices and taxes on polluting forms of transport.
Saturday’s protests marked the third consecutive week of such demonstrations, although with an estimated 36,500 participants across the country they were smaller than those in weeks past, according to the French Interior Ministry.
Last week about 53,000 participated, and there were about 113,000 the week before.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter Saturday that 1,500 “troublemakers” had infiltrated a group of about 200 peaceful protesters and had “come to fight” near the Champs Elysées in Paris.
Footage shared by French police showed a few demonstrators striking a police vehicle and smashing its windshield. Other videos captured burning cars and police firing tear gas to disperse protesters.
Rising fuel prices are largely attributed to a leap in the wholesale price of oil. Brent crude oil — a benchmark for worldwide oil purchases — increased by more than 20% in the first half of the year, from around $60 a barrel to $86.07 in early October.
But the protests have evolved into a broader demonstration against French President Emmanuel Macron, his government and tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.
Macron has borne the brunt of the demonstrators’ anger instead of OPEC for reducing oil production, or the US for imposing tariffs on Iran, which crippled oil exports.
Many protesters are angry with Macron for extending the environmental policies that were first implemented by former President François Hollande.
The violent protests and vandalism in Paris have “absolutely nothing to do with the peaceful demonstrations of a legitimate unhappiness or discontent,” said Macron at a news conference in Buenos Aires, where he’s attending the G20 summit.
“No cause justifies that security forces are attacked, shops pillaged, public or private buildings set on fire, pedestrians or journalists threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is sullied,” Macron said.
Those responsible will be identified and taken to court, he added. Macron will be meeting with the French prime minister and the minister of the interior when he returns to Paris.