Following a weekend of destruction which saw police attacked, iconic restaurants burned, and retailers threatened, French authorities have decided to call time on the so-called “Yellow Vest” protests, banning them from the Champs Elysees and other key areas where demonstrators have been gathering.
What began as an honest protest against the country’s over-burdening climate change policies — which included a new gas tax that would cripple the transportation industry and pile an even greater financial burden on already cash-strapped Parisians — was taken over by violent, anti-Capitalist forces who claim to belong to the “Yellow Vest” protests, but seem intent only on starting riots and wreaking destruction.
CNN reports that Saturday’s riots were some of the most destructive in months. Sixty people were injured “including 17 police officers and a fireman,” and demonstrators torched some of the Champs Elysees’ most iconic buildings: a branch of the Tarneaud bank, and the world famous Fouquet’s restaurant.
Luxury retailers, who have made their home on the central Paris boulevard, in some cases, for centuries — Longchamp, Cartier, Louis Vuitton — had to be closed and boarded. Cartier and Longchamp incurred damage to their exteriors. A newsstand outside of Louis Vuitton was torched and destroyed. Windows at retailers along both sides of the street were broken and graffitied.
The French Insurance Federation estimated the damage at around 170 million Euro, or about $195 million.
“The protests turned violent as police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Protesters threw rocks and set up barricades,” CNN reported. Around 120 protesters were arrested.
The “Yellow Vest” protests began around four months ago as a movement against rising fuel taxes and against the agenda of French President Emanuel Macron. But in recent weeks, French authorities say “ultra-left” and “radical groups” have infiltrated legitimate protests and the government will no longer tolerate the chaos.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Monday that French authorities would begin cracking down on protests as they turn violent, banning them from tourist-laden areas, in particular the Champs Elysees.
“From next Saturday, we will ban ‘yellow vest’ protests in neighbourhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see signs of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage,” Philippe said in a televised statement, according to the BBC.
He also criticized police, whom he accused of staying on the defensive rather than “intervening rapidly to stop the rioting.” As a result, Philippe announced that he is replacing the current Parisian chief of police.
Macron, who has been facing off with the protesters for months — often acquiescing to demands, including extending the time period for taxes to rise and a new $10 billion welfare program — cut short his ski vacation, according to the BBC, to return home to attend to the riots. In a speech given Monday, Macron pledged, “that’s the end. I demand that such scenes must not be repeated, especially on that [Champs-Élysées] avenue.”