France to ban 'yellow vest' protests if violent groups take part: PM

FILE PHOTO: A man stand in front of a damaged shop on the Champs Elysees avenue during a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, March 16, 2019. Picture taken March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s prime minister said Paris’s police chief had been sacked and that the government would shut down “yellow vest” protests if violent groups were identified among the ranks of “yellow vest” protesters.

President Emmanuel Macron and his government have been forced back on the defensive after rioters ransacked luxury boutiques and torched cafes and a bank on Saturday in the latest flare-up of violence against Macron’s pro-business reforms.

“From next Saturday, we will ban ‘yellow vest’ protests in neighborhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see sign of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a televised speech.

Some 10,000 people participated in Saturday’s protests in the capital, according to police estimates, including a hard-core of about 1,500 troublemakers who Philippe said were bent on “looting, destroying property and causing injury.”

“These were criminal acts. The government’s response must be strong,” Philippe sad.

A new Paris police chief would be appointed on Wednesday, he said, adding that police officers on the ground would be given more decision-making autonomy and handed extra equipment including drones.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Geert De Clercq