As French president Emmanuel Macron dined on crab and steak at the G20 summit, protesters clashed with police, who sprayed tear gas, fired water cannons and stun grenades in a bid to stop ‘yellow vest’ militants in their tracks. Demonstrators occupied the Champs Elysees, set cars and Christmas decorations ablaze, rolled vehicles stole an assault rifle from officers and sprayed graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe. “We are in a state of insurrection, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jeanne d’Hauteserre, the mayor of the Eighth District that surrounds the famous monument.
More than 200 people were arrested and more than 65 – including 11 members of the security forces – were injured as masked activists threw missiles and flares in the second weekend of furious nationwide demonstrations.
Several hundred protesters sang the national anthem and chanted “Macron resign!” as more than 5,000 – who accuse the president of being out of touch with ordinary people.
Addressing a news conference in Buenos Aires, president Macron insisted no cause justified the violence.
“I will always respect differences. I will always listen to opposition, but I will never accept violence,” he said.
Tens of thousands more protesters took part in rallies across the country, in Marseille, Biarritz and Antibes on the Mediterranean coast and even the Netherlands.
It was one of the biggest challenges to Macron in his 18 months in office.
As the violence spread buildings were set alight and at least 19 central Paris metro stations, plus the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores closed their doors.
“We went to the Galeries Lafayette as we thought we would be safe there but then we were evacuated by staff and security,” said tourist Tina Holten, 35, from Denmark.
“We felt safe inside but now we are outside we are very scared. ” Around Saint Lazare station, a bank’s windows were smashed before mounted police pushed protesters back.
An insurance firm was scrawled with graffiti reading “Macron in prison”.
On night fell on exclusive Rue de la Paix, piles of Christmas trees were left smouldering.
And the US embassy warned American citizens to take shelter from “violent clashes” .