Paris Police Use Tear Gas, Water Cannon Against 'Yellow Vest' Protesters
Security forces in Paris have fired tear gas and used a water cannon today to disperse 'yellow vest' protesters who tried to break through a police cordon on the Champs-Elysées, reported rte.ie
Several thousand demonstrators, wearing high-visibility yellow jackets, had gathered on the avenue as part of protests which began last Saturday against an increase in diesel tax, justified as an anti-pollution levy by the government.
The protests have since morphed into a broad opposition front to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.
Paris police authorities said today's incidents were linked to the "presence of members of the far-right who harassed the security forces."
The 'yellow vest' protesters were seen ripping up paving stones or starting to build barricades.
But "no demonstrator entered" the zone that had been cordoned off by police on the Place de la Concorde and the lower part of the Champs-Elysée, near the presidential palace.
Some of the protesters condemned the police action.
Christophe, 49, who had travelled from the Isère region in eastern France with his wife, fled into a side road off the Champs-Elysée to escape the tear gas.
"We have just demonstrated peacefully, and we were teargassed," he said. "We see how we are welcomed in Paris."
Some 3,000 police officers were drafted into Paris ahead of the demonstration, amid fears that far-right and far-left militant groups would infiltrate the protest.
Last night, a man wearing an explosive device and demanding that 'yellow vest' protesters be given an audience by the French president turned himself into police in western France.
The 45-year-old man, who was himself wearing a yellow vest, revealed the device at a car wash in the shopping centre of the city of Angers.
He surrendered at 10.40pm (local time) in the shopping centre's parking lot after several hours of negotiations with police, the Maine-et-Loire department said.
"He demanded that the yellow vests be received at the Elysée" presidential palace, local prosecutor Yves Gambert told AFP.
Local official Bernard Gonzalez said: "There was a real risk, real danger, he had an explosive charge around his neck... This was not fake.
"It could have been dangerous for all the 'yellow vests' who spent the afternoon with him," he said, adding that the man clearly had experience with explosives.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted that the man had threatened to use "unidentified explosive elements and tampered grenades".
The device is being inspected by experts, Gonzalez said.
The incident took place at the Espace Anjou shopping centre, near where 'yellow vests' protesters in Angers have gathered for the last week.
The 'yellow vest' protest movement quickly disavowed the man.
This is the second weekend of ‘yellow vest’ protests which have caused severe disruption throughout France.
The French Interior Ministry said that the unrest has left two people dead and over 600 injured across the country.
For more than a week, protestors in fluorescent yellow jackets, which all French motorists are required to have in their cars, have blocked roads with burning barricades and convoys of slow moving trucks preventing access to fuel depots, shopping centres and factories.
The protests started out as a backlash against increased fuel prices by mainly rural or small-town voters. But the movement has since tapped into a broader frustration against Macron’s 18-month-old government.
The French president raised the price of diesel fuel to encourage people to shift to more environmentally-friendly transport.
But it has backfired with people saying he is out of touch with common folk and his popularity ratings have fallen.
Last weekend, nearly 300,000 people took part countrywide in the first ‘yellow vest’ protest, causing a 35% drop in retailers' revenue.
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