French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Paris could soon ban protests in “worst hit” neighborhoods, after radical protesters turned a Yellow Vests’ demonstration on Champs-Elysees into smashing, looting, and burning mayhem.
“From next Saturday, we will ban ‘yellow vest’ protests in neighbourhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see sign of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage,” Philippe told reporters on Monday.
Philippe then announced that the city’s police chief, Michel Delpuech, will be sacked and replaced on Wednesday by Didier Lallement, currently the top police official in the southwestern region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Philippe criticized the Paris police for their handling of Saturday’s protests, saying “the strategy for maintaining order was not correctly implemented.”
Philippe also took aim at those social media users who he said were encouraging the rioting, saying that “all those who participate, encourage, or glorify it on social networks are complicit,” and warning that “they will have to take responsibility.”
Earlier on Monday, it emerged that future protests and demonstrations could be banned in the heart of Paris after French President Emmanuel Macron consulted with his interior and justice ministers during an emergency meeting.
Sections of protesters attached to the movement wreaked havoc on the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue, after police attempted to remove barriers erected by the protesters. The demonstration, the group’s 18th consecutive weekend of protests, then turned into a riot with cars set on fire and shops along the avenue smashed up and looted. Riot police responded by firing tear gas and other projectiles, which hospitalized a reporter from RT’s Ruptly video agency.
Previous clashes with police have resulted in demonstrators and bystanders suffering severe injuries after being hit with gas canisters, rubber bullets and Flash-Balls. Activist group Desarmons-les (Disarm Them) has recorded at least 150 serious injuries. Government figures show that over 2,000 protesters and over 1,000 police officers have been injured since protests broke out in November.
The renewed violence bears the hallmarks of the severe rioting that occurred during demonstrations in December. However, recent demonstrations have been fairly calm. Macron has since vowed to take “strong measures” in order to prevent a repeat of the violence next Saturday.
Initially a rejection of proposed fuel tax increases, the Yellow Vest movement has since widened to broadly oppose the government, its pro-business reforms, and Macron’s leadership in general.
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