Blazes, looting hit Paris as Gilets Jaunes seek new momentum

Blazes, looting hit Paris as Gilets Jaunes seek new momentum

Blazes, looting hit Paris as Gilets Jaunes seek new momentum

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A mother and her baby trapped on the second floor of the building, as flames surged up from the bank branch on the ground floor, were rescued by firefighters.

Eleven people suffered minor injuries in the bank blaze, the fire service told AFP.

French Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, said the protests were small compared to a few weeks ago, with only 8,000 people participating in Paris.

"Macron, we're coming to get you at home", some of the protesters chanted, referring to the presidential palace situated near the Champs-Elysees.

"I'm going to spend two to three days here to rest and rediscover landscapes and faces that are dear to me", Macron told La Depeche du Midi newspaper.

A Yellow Vest protester waves a French national flag while standing behind a burning barricade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on 16 March 2019, during the 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations called by the "Yellow Vest" (gilets jaunes) movement.

And the number of yellow vest protesters remains smaller than early in the movement, when it drew masses to the streets nationwide and polls showed a majority of French people supporting their cause.

Protesters are angry over high taxes and Macron policies seen as coddling business.

Around half a million people turned out at townhall-style meetings held around the country, but many "yellow-vest" protesters dismissed the consultation as a smokescreen.

On Saturday, the police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to try repel protesters who gathered at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe war memorial, which was sacked by protesters on December 1.

Black-clad demonstrators encircled the square surrounding the arch, pelting the police with stones. He also said the crowd included 1,500 "ultraviolent ones who are there to smash things up".

On social media, "yellow vest" leaders had hinted at the arrival of sympathisers from Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and even Poland.

Boutiques were smashed up, mannequins thrown out of broken windows and a newsagents was set on fire.

Protesters streamed into the capital by train and vehicle for a rally they called an "ultimatum" to the president. Police closed down several streets and fanned out around the Right Bank.

Macron, who was caught off guard when the grassroots movement erupted in November, loosened the state's purse strings to the tune of 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) to try defuse the protests.

He also travelled the length and breadth of the country, engaging in marathon debates with local politicians and voters.

But the measures failed to quell the anger of the demonstrators, who accuse Macron, a centrist former investment banker, of being beholden to high finance.

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

"We are dealing with several hundred, several thousand in some cases, highly determined people who are there to create disorder", Philippe said.

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