Yellow vest protests: More than 100 arrested as violence returns to Paris

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Yellow vest protesters march in Paris on November 16, 2019, to celebrate the first anniversary of the movementImage source, Getty Images
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Thousands of people took to the streets of Paris to mark the first anniversary of the yellow vest movement

Police in Paris arrested more than 100 people as protests to mark the first anniversary of the anti-government yellow vest movement turned violent.

Yellow vest (gilets jaunes) rallies took place nationwide on Saturday, a year after they first erupted.

Tear gas and water cannon were used by police in Paris, where thousands of protesters thronged the streets.

Rioters unleashed some of the worst violence the city has seen in months.

With many clad in black and wearing masks to hide their faces, rioters in parts of the city burned barricades, vandalised banks, set rubbish bins on fire and hurled cobblestones at police.

By Saturday evening, Paris police said 147 people had been arrested across the capital.

The nationwide protests were intended to send a message to French President Emmanuel Macron, whose government has been accused of ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens.

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France fuel protests: Who are the people in the yellow vests?

The protests first erupted in November last year over fuel price rises, but grew to cover wider grievances, including stagnating wages, living costs and economic inequality.

Mr Macron attempted to quell the protests with promises of tax cuts, higher pensions and reforms, but many still feel he has not done enough.

"We're here even if Macron doesn't like it," demonstrators chanted as they marched through Paris on Saturday.

The spirit of rebellion is still strong

At the Place d'Italie today, in south-east Paris, the rioters were out again. They burned barricades, smashed the front of a bank, defaced a World War Two memorial; and they flung stones and rocks at police, who responded with clouds and clouds of tear gas.

There hasn't been a day of violence in Paris like this linked to the yellow vest movement for many months. The rioters may only have been a minority, but the other yellow vests did nothing to stop them. They were there, they said, to show they hadn't gone away.

Police tactics against yellow vest protests are now ruthless and effective. A year on, the yellow vests are not the force they were, but the spirit of rebellion is still strong among many people in France.

Image source, Getty Images
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Protesters set up barricades against French riot police on Place d'Italie

Elsewhere in the city, demonstrators and police clashed near the Porte de Champerret, close to the Arc de Triomphe.

"We are a bit disappointed that this has descended into violence," said one protester, who travelled from eastern France to Paris to mark the first anniversary.

There were also skirmished between police and protesters in other cities, including Bordeaux, Nantes and Lyon.

Image source, Getty Images
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French riot police run past a vehicle set alight during yellow vests protests

Much of the anger is directed at Mr Macron, who came to power in 2017 vowing to face down protesters and drive through long-postponed economic reforms.

One of Mr Macron's least-popular measures, early in his presidency, was to scrap a special wealth tax.

Yellow vest protesters accuse Mr Macron of protecting the Parisian elite, especially the rich, while neglecting the hardship of citizens in the provinces.