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France's 'Yellow Jackets' hit Paris streets for fifth week of protests

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France's 'Yellow Jackets' hit Paris streets for fifth week of protests
Similar protests in recent weekends turned violent, with protesters smashing and looting stores and setting up burning barricades in the streets. -
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Margot Haddad
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PARIS — Protesters wearing their now-famous yellow jackets held a minute's silence on the streets of the French capital Saturday morning for those injured and killed in clashes with police, a brief moment of quiet amid weeks of demonstrations that have roiled the country and seized global attention.In Paris, armed officers patrolled eerily empty streets as authorities braced for the fifth consecutive weekend of nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron.Some storefronts were boarded up, though others remained open to welcome Christmas shoppers.

Similar protests in recent weekends turned violent, with protesters smashing and looting stores and setting up burning barricades in the streets.
Similar protests in recent weekends turned violent, with protesters smashing and looting stores and setting up burning barricades in the streets.Margot Haddad

The "Yellow Jacket" protests began last month against planned tax hikes on gas but have since morphed into a wider rebuke of Macron's presidency and an expression of anger at his attempts to reform France's long-ailing economy.Escalating riots forced Paris into lockdown, while violent clashes with police resulted in hundreds of arrests, along with many injuries and six deaths.

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In preparation for this weekend's demonstrations, 8,000 police were deployed across the city while thousands more were stationed across the country. Six people were arrested in the capital before 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET). That number had increased more than ten-fold within three hours.Police were out in full riot gear while water cannons were on standby, ready to control unruly crowds.Teargas was fired at a small group of protesters near the Champs-Elysees while a handful of topless activists from the feminist protest group Femen encountered security forces near the president's residence, the Elysee Palace.About a thousand people gathered by the city's opera house and another thousand gathered at the Arc de Triomphe, which was vandalized with spraypaint in previous demonstrations. Despite that large gathering, the crowd was calm in comparison to recent weeks when an estimated 10,000 protesters flooded the streets.Macron has announced a series of concessions in an effort to quell the unrest.

He scrapped the unpopular gas tax increase, which was aimed at reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions. In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Macron accepted some responsibility for the protests and also announced wage rises for the poorest workers alongside tax cuts for pensioners.On Friday, he called for a return to calm in France after nearly a month of protests. "France needs calm, order and a return to normal," Macron said.The government has warned that the demonstrations are taking a toll on the country's economy as well as causing widespread disruption.Lucy Kafanov reported from Paris, and Linda Givetash from London.