‘Yellow vest’ protesters returned in force to the streets of France this weekend, clashing with police in several cities and smashing their way into a government ministry in Paris with the help of a forklift truck.
The interior ministry put the number of protesters who took to the streets on Saturday at 50,000, compared with 32,000 on December 29 when the movement appeared to be weakening after holding a series of weekly Saturday protests since mid-November.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, who was evacuated from his ministry in central Paris when a handful of protesters in high-visibility vests smashed down the large wooden door to the ministry compound, denounced the break-in as an “unacceptable attack on the Republic”.
“Some yellow vest protesters and other people dressed in black … got hold of a construction vehicle which was in the street nearby and smashed open the entrance gate to the ministry,” he told AFP.
They briefly entered the courtyard where they smashed up two cars, broke some windows then escaped, he added, saying police were trying to identify them from security footage.
President Emmanuel Macron did not specifically refer to the incident, but tweeted his condemnation of the “extreme violence” against “the Republic, its guardians, its representatives and its symbols”.
Griveaux had on Friday criticised the yellow vest movement, describing those still involved as “agitators” who were seeking “to overthrow the government”.
Police said some 3,500 demonstrators turned up on the Champs-Elysees on Saturday morning.
Some then made their way south of the river to the wealthy area around Boulevard St Germain, where they set light to a car and several motorbikes and set up burning barricades, prompting police to fire tear gas to try and disperse them. — AFP