French government sacks Paris's Police chief, threatens to ban ‘yellow vest’ protests

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By Michael-Ross Fiorentino  with Reuters
French government sacks Paris's Police chief, threatens to ban ‘yellow vest’ protests
Copyright  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

France’s prime minister has said Paris's police chief has been sacked in response to the latest "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) protest that transformed the capital into chaos with scenes of rioting and looting on Saturday.  

With pressure mounting, France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said police strategy for maintaining order was not correctly executed, resulting in Paris police chief Michel Delpuech being replaced by the current state prefect of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, Didier Lallement.

Philippe also threatened to shut down “yellow vest” demonstrations if violent groups were identified among the protesters.

In a televised statement, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: "From next Saturday, we will ban 'yellow vest' protests in neighbourhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see signs of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage."

The restrictions would apply to Paris and other cities in France.

Tensions escalated over the weekend along the Champs Elysees boulevard, where high-end restaurant Fouquet’s, which is often frequented by celebrities and politicians, was set on fire and vandalised.

An estimated 10,000 people took part in the Paris protest Saturday, a turnout increase of recent weeks but well below the numbers from four months ago. About 5,000 police were deployed to meet the protestors in the French capital.

The Paris Ile-de-France Chamber of Commerce says that 91 businesses were affected, nearly all of them were seriously damaged.

Damage costs since the start of France's "yellow vest" protests are estimated to be at least 170 million euros, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters on Monday. 

The “yellow vests” demonstrations were triggered last November over an abandoned fuel tax hike but quickly blew up into a broader movement against Macron and his pro-business reforms.