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Violent clashes erupt in Paris Violent clashes erupt in Paris  (AFP or licensors)

Clashes rock Paris fueled by fuel tax and social tensions

Clashes have broken out in Paris where police fired tear gas and detained hundreds of people as the French capital went on lockdown for the latest "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron and France’s high taxes.

By Stefan J. Bos

Protesters mingled with tear gas near the famous Champs-Elysees avenue, the scene last Saturday of the worst rioting in Paris for decades. They demand the resignation of French President Emannual Macron, who they claim is out-of-touch with ordinary people.

Yellow-vested demonstrators also tried to reach the heart of presidential power. But a ring of steel surrounded the Elysee Palace itself as police stationed trucks and reinforced steel barriers in streets throughout the entire neighborhood.

Blue armored vehicles beneath the famed monument Arc de Triomphe and rows of helmeted, thickly protected riot police blocked the demonstrators’ the passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the presidential palace.

Authorities said that hundreds of demonstrators had been searched and at least more than 360 people remained in custody after police found what they described as potential weapons such as hammers and baseball bats.

Police also confiscated gas masks and protective goggles from journalists trying to cover the violence between protesters and security forces.

Thousands of police

The government deployed 8,000 police in the city, as part of extraordinary security measures across France aimed at preventing a repeat of last week’s rioting, which injured 130 people and struck a new blow to the country's global image.

Since the unrest began November 17 in response to a sharp increase in diesel and gasoline taxes, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

The government has since abandoned the immediate introduction of additional fuel taxes aimed at fighting climate change.

But the demands of the "yellow vest" movement — named for the safety gear that French motorists keep in their cars — is now pressing for a broader range of benefits from the government to help workers, retirees, and students.

Violence across Europe

Similar protests also spread Saturday to other nations, including Belgium where police fired tear gas and water cannons at stone-throwing yellow-vested protesters near the country’s government offices and parliament.

Authorities said about 100 have been detained, many for possessing dangerous objects like fireworks or wearing clothing that could be used as protection in clashes with police.

In neighboring the Netherlands, about 100 protesters gathered in a peaceful demonstration outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague, but at least two protesters were detained by police in central Amsterdam.

Protests over labor issues were also held in Budapest.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report
08 December 2018, 17:05