March 22, 2019
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Calm reigns over Paris after violence, women yellow vests set to protest

Paris, Jan 6 (efe-epa).- Calm was restored in the French capital on Sunday morning after an eighth weekend of yellow vest protests turned violent, an epa-efe photojournalist reported.

Female yellow vest protesters held a rally in Paris following violent protests on Saturday that led President Emmanuel Macron to vow that justice would be sought for those responsible.

Members of the "gilets jaunes" (yellow vests) movement, named after the high-visibility jackets they wear, have been staging protests across the country for weeks, originally over a fuel tax hike but more recently as an expression of wider anti-government sentiment.

An epa-efe photojournalist who was on the scene in Paris at this Saturday's edition of the protests said that while store fronts were not targeted, movable items like trash cans, abandoned Christmas trees, rental scooters and bicycles were set on fire.

Various meeting points had been organized for Saturday's action in Paris, with about 300 people turning up on the Champs-Élysées for 10 am local time, and others gathering in front of City Hall for 2 pm.

Those gathered on the Champs-Élysées blocked traffic, leading riot police officers, who had kept themselves out of sight, to form a cordon.

The protesters then walked past the Opera house and continued towards City Hall to join others. Some appeared to not know where they were, looking at maps on their cellphones and asking members of the media for directions, the epa-efe journalist said.

Over 1,000 protesters gathered outside City Hall, from where they set off towards Parliament on the other side of the Seine.

It was at that point the protest turned violent, according to an epa-efe photojournalist, who saw a group of about 30 demonstrators throwing metal barriers at a cordon protecting a local police station.

Police formed a blockade in a bid to stop the yellow vests reaching Parliament, near the Musée d'Orsay.

When protesters tried to cross a footbridge to the other side of the river, they were stopped by riot police officers.

"A scuffle and hand-to-hand battle followed atop the bridge, until a teargas canister dissipated the face-off," the epa-efe photojournalist who was on the bridge said. "Projectiles flew in our direction for over an hour, and sporadic teargas was fired in return."

The source said some police officers were injured by rocks thrown by protesters.

"Suddenly we noticed smoke billowing from a restaurant-barge moored along the bank, just beneath our bridge," said the epa-efe source. "Yellow vests had broken in and set the dining area alight."

After the scuffles, police resorted to teargas to shift the protesters, who left the way they had come.

On St. Germain boulevard, trash, scooters and Christmas trees were piled up and set ablaze at regular intervals.

"As fast as riot police could charge forward to secure a blaze for firefighters, a new one was started the next block up," the epa-efe photojournalist said.

The situation continued until Saint-Michel neighborhood, a popular restaurant area, by which point many of the protesters had left or gone off into other neighborhoods, some returning to the Champs-Élysées.

People sat outside bars with heated terraces "just blocks away from burning cars and teargas, almost unaware of the mayhem nearby," according to the epa-efe source.

The yellow vest movement has sparked the biggest social crisis in France since Macron took office in May 2017.

Macron denounced the "extreme violence" that characterized many of the yellow vests' protests on Saturday.

In a message on Twitter, Macron said: "once more, extreme violence has come to attack the republic, its protectors, its representatives and its symbols."

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