French PM holds talks after violent protests in Paris

French PM holds talks after violent protests in Paris

And in Paris, more than 200 cars were torched during protests last weekend that degenerated into the worst street clashes in the city centre in decades.

The tax on petrol and diesel, due to increase next month in a move towards cleaner fuels, sparked protests that quickly escalated to reflect a range of grievances including the marginalization of rural areas, high living costs and general anger at President Emmanuel Macron's economic policies.

He said he will hold an emergency government meeting Sunday on the protests.

Police said 81 people had been arrested amid concerns that violent far-right and far-left groups were infiltrating the "yellow vests" movement, a spontaneous grassroots rebellion over the struggle of many in France to make ends meet. He refused to answer any questions from journalists about the situation in Paris.

The French president who has prided himself on sticking to his guns even as his popularity levels tumbled, has reversed course and suspended a planned fuel-tax hike that had sent as many as 300,000 protesters into the streets for three weeks, with vivid images of the violent clashes in the heart of Paris making their rounds worldwide.

The number of demonstrators was, according to the Ministry of the interior in the afternoon across the country to 75,000 estimated.

Macron has so far refused to roll back taxes on fuel, which he says are needed to fund the country s transition to a low-emission economy. France's failure to quell the anger has led to copycat yellow jacket movements in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

As he spoke, workmen in the upper-crust district of central Paris set about cleaning the defaced Arc, removing charred hulks of cars and replacing the shattered windows of banks, restaurants and glitzy boutiques.

"No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation", Philippe said as he announced the suspension. A video on social media shows the heavy fence falling on some protesters.

At the Arc de Triomphe graffiti had been daubed, with one slogan saying: "The yellow vests will win". Those initial anti-tax demonstrations have since expanded into a broader, populist expression of anti-government sentiment by middle-class French citizens who believe Macron, a former investment banker, has catered to the rich since taking office.

Graffiti sprayed onto the Arc de Triomphe wrote: "yellow jackets will triumph".

Macron has not spoken publicly about Saturday's destruction in Paris since his return from a G20 summit in Argentina at the weekend. Over 20 downtown Paris metro stations were closed for security reasons and police ordered stores in nearby neighborhoods to close early Saturday evening. Hours later, cars still smoldered and law enforcement and protesters were still facing off elsewhere in the capital.

The protests began on November 17, when hundreds of thousands of people across France turned out to protest fuel taxes that Macron imposed as part of a plan to reduce energy consumption and tackle climate change.

"It's hard to reach the end of the month".

"The French don't want crumbs, they want the whole baguette", Benjamin Cauchy, one of the movement's organisers, told AFP, though he welcomed what he called "a first step" towards a "redistribution of wealth in France".

"Our purchasing power is severely diminishing every day".

Mr Macron, speaking in Buenos Aires before he flew home, welcomed the views of the protesters but said there was no place for violence in public discourse.

"You always have some idiots who come to fight, but they don't represent us at all".

At least three people have died in the protests since they began, all in traffic accidents caused by blockades set up by yellow vest protesters.

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