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Paris turns into battle ground in "Yellow Vest" protest

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Firemen extinguish burning cars set alight by protesters
Firemen extinguish burning cars set alight by protesters   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
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Bins were set on fire and tear gas was fired in Paris on Saturday as the “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) movement started their third weekend of nationwide unrest.

Police said more than 265 people were arrested and almost 100 were injured in the French capital as protesters burned cars, smashed shop windows, and hurled projectiles at riot police.

Protesters sat down under the Arc de Triomphe and sang the national anthem La Marseillaise and chanted for French President Emmanuel Macron to resign.

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Protesters stand up in front of a police water canon during clashes near the Arc de TriompheREUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Police fired stun grenades, tear gas, and water cannon at the Champs-Elysees boulevard and multiple sites across the city including Opera and Place de la Bastille, while shops such as Chanel, Dior, and Apple were targeted.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe condemned the "great violence" and told reporters he was "shocked by the attacks on the symbols of France”.

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
A protester stands near a burning car during clashes near the Place de l'Etoile in Paris.REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Saturday marks the third weekend of national protests by "Yellow Vest" activists who want President Emmanuel Macron to reverse his decision to increase taxes on fuel.

The nationwide movement has been ongoing for more than two weeks with protesters setting up road blockages throughout the country, significantly slowing down traffic and the delivery of goods.

There is no political group affiliated to the movement, despite fears that far-right and far-left movements would try to infiltrate Saturday's protest.

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Protesters demonstrate near the Place de l'Etoile in ParisREUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Despite widespread public support for "yellow vests" — who take their name from the high-visibility jackets all motorists in France must carry in their vehicles — Macron is holding firm.

His approval rating has tumbled to just 26%, according to a recent Ipsos poll. Macron has been dubbed the "President of the rich" and out of touch with working-class voters.

Speaking from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron said that the violence and vandalism in Paris could not be justified and had nothing to do with a peaceful expression of legitimate anger.

“No cause justifies that security forces are attacked, shops pillaged, public or private buildings set on fire, pedestrians or journalists threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is sullied,” he said.

The “gilets jaunes” protests spread across the country, from Charleville Mezieres in the northeast to Marseille in the south.

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe