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Paris protest turns into riot of burning, looting; famed Arc defaced

by SYLVIE CORBET The Associated Press | December 2, 2018 at 3:12 a.m.
A fire burns Saturday near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as protesters angry about rising taxes and other issues clash with police during France’s most violent urban riot in a decade. Police used tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to quell the mayhem in some of the city’s most popular tourist areas. Central Paris was locked down by police after rioters torched cars and trash cans, threw rocks at police and looted stores.

PARIS -- France's most violent urban riot in a decade engulfed central Paris on Saturday as "yellow jacket" activists torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with multicolored graffiti.

Protesters angry about rising taxes and the high cost of living clashed with riot police, who closed off some of the city's most popular tourist areas and fired tear gas and water cannons as they tried to quell the mayhem in the streets.

President Emmanuel Macron denounced the violence from the G-20 summit in Argentina, saying those who attacked police and vandalized the Arc de Triomphe will be "held responsible for their acts." He said he will hold an emergency government meeting today on the protests.

"[Violence] has nothing to do with the peaceful expression of a legitimate anger" and "no cause justifies" attacks on police or pillaging stores and burning buildings, Macron said in Buenos Aires. He refused to answer any questions from journalists about the situation in Paris.

It was the third-straight weekend of clashes in Paris with activists dressed in the fluorescent yellow vests of a new protest movement and the worst urban violence since at least 2005. The scene contrasted sharply with other protests in France, where demonstrations and road blockades elsewhere on Saturday were largely peaceful.

Thousands of police were deployed to try to contain the violence, which began Saturday morning near the Arc de Triomphe and continued well after dark. Paris police said at least 110 people, including 20 police officers, were injured in the violent protests and 224 others were arrested.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, speaking on French television channel TF1, said one protester was in a life-threatening condition after being part of a group pulling down a metal fence at the Tuileries gardens. A video on social media shows the heavy fence falling on some protesters.

By the afternoon, clashes continued down several streets popular with tourists. Pockets of demonstrators built makeshift barricades, lit fires, torched cars and trash cans, threw rocks at police and looted stores.

Some demonstrators removed the barriers protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I under the Arc de Triomphe monument to pose near its eternal flame and sing the national anthem. They were dispersed by police.

Graffiti sprayed onto the Arc de Triomphe said: "yellow jackets will triumph."

By Saturday afternoon, central Paris was locked down by police, with all roads leading away from the Arc closed off as more police moved in. More than 20 downtown Paris metro stations were closed for security reasons and police ordered stores in nearby neighborhoods to close early Saturday evening.

Information for this article was contributed by Chris Den Hond, Lori Hinnant and Angela Charlton of The Associated Press.

A Section on 12/02/2018

Print Headline: Paris protest turns into riot of burning, looting; famed Arc defaced

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