Benjamin Griveaux escaped through a back door of the compound after about a dozen people – some wearing yellow vests and others dressed in black – breached the barriers and began smashing up cars and windows. The 41-year-old father-of-two and his staff sought refuge in a hotel nearby after being evacuated. On Friday Mr Griveaux held a press conference after the weekly cabinet meeting where he told reporters that the yellow vest protesters were not interested in debate but instead wanted to “overthrow the government”.
President Macron responded to the violation of government property by tweeting that the country’s “guardians, its representative, its symbols” were under attack.
It comes as the yellow vest protesters took part in their eight weekend of rallies in Paris and other cities across France to voice their discontent at Mr Macron’s government.
What began as peaceful demonstrations in central Paris on Saturday morning soon descended into chaos as motorbikes were torched and barricades set ablaze in the upmarket Boulevard Saint Germain.
Police who were blocking bridges to prevent protesters crossing the river to reach the National Assembly had missiles fired at them and countered the rioters with tear gas.
A riverboat restaurant in the Seine was set on fire and a policeman was hurt when he was hit by a bicycle thrown from a street above the river bank.
Later in the day, images of hooded youths setting a car alight flashed across TV screens but the violence paled in comparison to that in November when demonstrators looted shops, vandalised banks and defaced the Arc de Triomphe.
In recent weeks, authorities have blamed the worst of the violence on anarchists, anti-capitalists and extreme groups on the fringes of the movement.
Francois Cordier, who took part in one of the rallies yesterday, said: “They have no right to leave us in the s*** like this. We’re fed up with having to pay out the whole time, we’ve had enough of this slavery, we should be able to live on our salaries.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said about 50,000 people had taken part in street protests around the country, including in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Rouen and Marseille.
The yellow vests had sought to inject some momentum back into the movement after numbers began to wane following the turnout of 282,000 on November 17 – the first day of demonstrations.
What began as a protest against rising fuel prices quickly morphed into a wider anger against Mr Macron who is accused of being a “president for the rich”.
He has seen his credibility severely damaged by the unrest and his approval rating have plummeted to 23 per cent, according to a poll conducted by pollofpolls.eu in December.
After bowing to some of the demands and announcing a £10billion package of concessions, the government took a harder stance against the protesters in the New Year, saying they were agitators who want to topple the president.