PARIS (Reuters) - French police fired tear gas and arrested more than 250 people in Paris on Saturday as they tussled with “yellow vest” protesters seeking to revive an anti-government movement curbed by a coronavirus lockdown this year.
The “yellow vests”, named after motorists’ high-visibility jackets, emerged in late 2018 in protest against fuel taxes and the cost of living, posing a major challenge to President Emmanuel Macron as demonstrations spread across France.
By midday on Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators had gathered at the starting points of two authorised marches in Paris.
While one cortege proceeded without incident, the other march was aborted as police clashed with groups who left the designated route and set fire to waste bins and a car.
Some protesters wore black clothes and carried the flag of an anti-fascist movement, suggesting the presence of radical demonstrators dubbed “black blocks” often blamed for violence at street marches in France.
The police repeatedly used tear gas to counter small groups of roaming protesters, before they dispersed towards the end of the afternoon.
Police had made 256 arrests by 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), with many for carrying items like tools that could be used as weapons.
A heavy police presence notably worked to prevent protesters reaching the Champs-Elysees. The famous shopping avenue was the scene of rioting at the height of the ‘yellow vest’ movement, and many stores there were boarded up on Saturday.
The return of the protests comes as France grapples with a resurgence in coronavirus cases that set a daily high on Thursday at nearly 10,000.
Police had called on Saturday’s demonstrators to respect coronavirus measures in Paris, which is among France’s high-risk “red zones” and where it is compulsory to wear a face mask in the street.
Reporting by Gonzalo Fuentes, Ardee Napolitano, Gus Trompiz and Jean-Michel Belot; Editing by Clelia Oziel, Helen Popper and Christina Fincher
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