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Macron under pressure to act as Paris cleans up after latest protests

Eiffel Tower and Louvre reopen after rioting injured 71 people and caused widespread damage

Macron under pressure to act as Paris cleans up after latest protests
Workmen remove protective wood panels outside a store in central Paris on Sunday. Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters
A vandalised newsstand in Paris a day after clashes during the gilets jaunes protests. Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters

Emmanuel Macron is facing mounting pressure to act to quell the anger dividing France after the latest gilets jaunes protests left 71 people injured in Paris and caused widespread damage.

Paris monuments, including the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum, reopened on Sunday as workers and shop owners started cleaning up after the protests.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Macron would “make important announcements” in the week ahead.

“However, not all the problems of the ‘yellow vest’ protesters will be solved by waving a magic wand,” he told LCI television.

The interior ministry said 1,220 people were taken into custody around the country during the latest protests.

Shops in Paris assessed looting damage and cleared away broken glass, after shutting down on Saturday at the height of the Christmas shopping season. But fierce winds and rain overnight hampered efforts to clean up while used teargas canister lids lay scattered on the cobblestones of the Champs Élysées.

Macron broke his silence after a day of protests late on Saturday evening to thank the security forces. About 8,000 police and gendarmes were deployed in a massive show of strength in the French capital with a force of 89,000 were deployed across France in total.

Macron tweeted: “Thank you for the courage and exceptional professionalism you have shown.”

Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron)

À toutes les forces de l’ordre mobilisées aujourd’hui, merci pour le courage et l’exceptionnel professionnalisme dont vous avez fait preuve.

December 8, 2018

The French prime minister, Édouard Phillipe, said Macron would soon put forward measures to foster discussion with the protesters, adding: “No tax should jeopardise our national unity. We must now rebuild that national unity through dialogue, through work, and by coming together.”

In a change of tactics from last week, when Paris saw the worst violence for more than 50 years, police and gendarmes chose to directly confront troublemaking demonstrators.

Stung by criticism that they lost control of the situation last week, politicians and police were reactive and mobile, determined not to let casseurs – vandals and hooligans – have their way again. Yesterday morning whole districts of the city were put into lockdown, with roads sealed off in an effort to contain protesters to the Champs-Élysées.

As the day wore on, however, groups of casseurs had police racing to deal with fires and barricades. Officers responded with water cannon and teargas.

Breakaway groups, young men dressed in black and wearing masks and scarves, dodged the security forces and teargas to build barricades and set fires around the city.

Police sources said they believed the “real” gilets jaunes had again been hijacked by extreme elements, including ultras from the left and right, and anarchist “black bloc” groups. In other parts of the country, the “real” gilets jaunes, as the French media now calls them, seemed determined to make their complaints peacefully.

Marc, 31, a farmworker from Normandy, said he’d “had enough of paying high taxes”, yet he wasn’t planning to get into a fight with police. “There are troublemakers here, and I get the impression some of them may be anarchists or extremists or ultras, but I don’t know. We’re not,” he said.

“But there’s something not right here: if we demonstrate peacefully, the government ignores us. If some people burn cars and attack the police, the government gives in. What does that tell us?”

The number of injured in Paris and nationwide was down on Saturday from last week’s protests, but the exceptional police deployment failed to deter demonstrators. About 125,000 gilets jaunes took to the streets around France putting forward a number of demands.

Rioting spread to France’s neighbours yesterday where Belgian police fired tear gas and water cannons at gilets jaunes. Protesters in Brussels, calling for the resignation of prime minister Charles Michel, threw paving stones, road signs, fireworks, flares and other projectiles at police.

In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters wearing yellow vests walked downtown, singing and handing flowers to passers-by. Another 100 protesters held a peaceful demonstration outside the Dutch parliament at the Hague.

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