PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron visited Sunday the monument to the Arc de Triomphe, damaged by graffiti, and held an emergency meeting on security Sunday, a day after the center of Paris has been hit by the worst riot in France for a generation.
Macron, who was meeting with his prime minister and ministers of the Interior and Environment, promised that those responsible for the violence and damages would pay for their deeds. His visit to France's beloved monument took place just hours after his return from the G20 summit in Argentina.
Macron paid tribute to the unknown soldier of the First World War whose tomb is under the monument. He then headed to a nearby avenue where activists wearing yellow jackets burned cars, smashed windows, looted shops and clashed with police on Saturday. He met firefighters, police and restaurant owners.
Paris police said on Sunday that 133 people were injured and 412 arrested while protesters ransacked the streets of the capital during a Saturday protest against rising taxes and high cost of living.
Charred cars, broken windows and riot fences have bloodied many of the city's most popular tourist areas on Sunday, including the main avenues near the Arc de Triomphe, the streets surrounding the famous Avenue des Champs- Elysées and the Tuileries Garden. Graffiti has also been sprayed on many shops and buildings.
Activists in yellow jackets burned cars, smashed windows, looted shops, threw stones at the police and branded the Arc de Triomphe with multicolored graffiti. French police fought back with tear gas and water cannons, closing dozens of streets and subway stations while they were trying to contain the riot.
Police reported that 23 police officers were among the wounded and that 378 of those arrested had been detained.
Sunday morning, employees of the city of Paris were cleaning graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe. One of the slogans was: "Yellow jackets will triumph" – a reference to fluorescent yellow vests worn by protesters to demand relief from the besieged French workers.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Saturday's violence was due to extremists who had hijacked the protest, people who had come to "loot, smash and beat police forces". Triumph.
"Yesterday, we made the choice to protect people before material goods," Griveaux told French television channel BFM TV on Sunday.
It was the third consecutive weekend of clashes in Paris involving militants dressed in the yellow jacket of a new protest movement and the worst urban violence in France since at least 2005. The scene in Paris contrasts sharply with the demonstrations most of which took place on Saturday in the whole of France and were peaceful.
"It's hard to reach the end of the month. People are working and paying a lot of taxes and we are fed up, "said Rabah Mendez, a protester who walked peacefully Saturday in Paris.
Protesters say the Macron government does not care about the problems of ordinary people. Popular demonstrations began on November 17. Motorists were upset by the fuel tax hike but now face a wide range of high cost of living demands in France.
Macron, speaking in Buenos Aires before flying home, praised the protesters' point of view but said that there was no room for violence in the public discourse.
"(The violence) has nothing to do with the peaceful expression of legitimate anger" and "no cause justifies" attacks on the police, looting in shops and buildings in flames, said Macron.
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