Emmanuel Macron’s “grand débat” was a two-month experiment designed to address the Yellow Vest protests in France that began last year in reaction to the government’s plans to hike gas taxes. The civic debates drew nearly half a million people who participated in over 10,000 meetings across the country. Intended to connect President Macron with disgruntled citizens on megaphones voicing their disgust with the government, the pitfalls of capitalism, high taxes, low-paying jobs, immigration and what they see as pervasive societal ills, the debates officially ended on Friday.
After complaints were recorded by French officials, violence ensued and the Yellow Vests ignited their 18th straight week of protests on Saturday, leaving stretches of Paris in a blaze of fury.
According to reports, demonstrators trashed the iconic Champs Élysées in an exchange of tear gas, water cannons and hurled cobble stones among rioters, protestors and police.
#Paris Police indiscriminately punching protestors in the face.#GiletsJaunes #Acte18 #France #ActeXVIII #YellowVests
— nonouzi (@Gerrrty) March 16, 2019
Shop windows were smashed, a bank set ablaze and eateries were looted. Rioters targeted Fouquet’s, a historic brasserie restaurant.
#Paris Scenes of chaos on the #ChampsElysées with fires in progress, several shops completely destroyed, … #GiletsJaunes #Acte18 #ActeXVIII #Yellowvests #France #Macron pic.twitter.com/oS7x8Rx5GR
— nonouzi (@Gerrrty) March 16, 2019
Nombreuses dégradations sur les Champs. #Acte18 #ActeXVIII pic.twitter.com/teUHAa7gbY
— Remy Buisine (@RemyBuisine) March 16, 2019
Over 200 people were taken into custody after nearly 80 shops were damaged.
#Update: Other video of #GiletsJaunes protestors set the bank on fire on the #ChampsÉlysées in #Paris. Situation is rapidly changing grim in #France. As protestors are taking a aggressive approach this time. pic.twitter.com/7MDZzDIaZ8
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) March 16, 2019
BFM news channel reports that 11 people, including two fire fighters, suffered minor injuries.
“A Boss menswear store and the upscale Fouquet’s restaurant — a brasserie popular with politicians and film stars – were among the premises to have their windows smashed by groups of hooded demonstrators in scenes reminiscent of the worst ‘yellow ves'” riots in Paris in December.”
Early morning protesters reportedly streamed into Paris from around the country declaring an “ultimatum” to Macron. NDTV reports that over 5,000 police were deployed, along with several armored police vehicles.
Macron tweeted that everyone involved in the protests was complicit in attempting to destroy the French Republic.
Ce qu’il s’est passé aujourd’hui sur les Champs-Élysées, ça ne s’appelle plus une manifestation. Ce sont des gens qui veulent détruire la République, au risque de tuer. Tous ceux qui étaient là se sont rendus complices de cela.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 16, 2019
While Interior Minister Christophe Castaner reported that only 7,000 to 8,000 protesters gathered in Paris on Saturday compared to the 250,000 people who joined the movement across France last year, signaling that the movement may be out of steam, the lower numbers haven’t lessened the socio-economic problems in France. The movement has galvanized activists and the working and middle classes who decry government policies that are lowering their standards of living and leaving them with too little money to cover their expenses.
The Yellow Vests have called for the reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, which was abolished in September 2017; a minimum wage increase; the implementation of Citizens’ initiative referendums and Macron’s ouster.
The French president returned to Paris ahead of schedule following the violent protests on Saturday, cutting short a ski trip to the Pyrenees.[the_ad id="42537"] [the_ad id="42536"]