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Blazes, looting hit Paris as Gilets Jaunes seek new momentum

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Blazes, looting hit Paris as Gilets Jaunes seek new momentum
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Large plumes of smoke covered Paris' skyline on Saturday as "Gilets Jaunes" (Yellow Vest) protesters started bonfires in the street, smashed shop windows, and hurled cobblestones at riot police in the 18th consecutive weekend of anti-government protests.

In response to the violence, police used water cannons and fired tear gas in front of the Arc de Triomphe monument in Les Champs Elysees. At least 30 demonstrators were arrested by late morning.

Tensions flared at the top of the famed avenue where upmarket restaurant Fouquet’s, which is often frequented by celebrities and politicians, was set alight and vandalised. At least one car was set on fire.

“Let there be no doubt: they are looking for violence and are there to sow chaos in Paris,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner wrote in a tweet.

@CCastaner

The fresh round of protests coincided with the end of President Emmanuel Macron's 'Grand Debat', a series of national debates around France which asked people what they want the government to focus on.

READ MORE: Macron's Great National Debate: What is it and how does it work? | Euronews Answers

The Gilets Jaunes demonstrations were triggered last November over a fuel tax hike but quickly blew up into a broader movement against Macron and his pro-business reforms.

Paris saw some of the worst vandalising and looting in decades in December, but the nationwide protests have generally been getting smaller since then.

The movement said it would draw more crowds to mark the fourth month since the protests began in mid-November.

In December, Macron offered a package of concessions of more than €10 billion to boost the incomes of some of the poorest workers and pensioners.