Paris stores looted, bank torched in new 'yellow vest' violence

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Protesters threw cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of Paris' Arc de Triumphed monument, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December.

One arson fire targeted a bank near the Champs-Elysees on the ground floor of a seven-story residential building. At least one vehicle was set on fire.

Police tried to contain the demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons.

A Boss menswear store and the high-end Fouquet's restaurant were among the premises targeted as groups of masked protesters lobbed stones at police defending the Arc de Triomphe war memorial.

It's also associated with former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy, who celebrated his 2007 election victory in Fouquet's - drawing criticism for his choice of such a flashy locale.

Several hundred meters (yards) down the Champs Elysees, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told journalists the latest violence was unacceptable and all would be done to bring perpetrators to justice.

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"We have been patient but now we want results", he said.

"But within this 8,000, there are more than 1,500 ultra violent people who are there just to smash things up, to fight and to attack", he said, adding more than 1,400 police officers were mobilized.

After weeks of declining participation, France's "yellow vest" protest movement attempted to rebound with a major rally in Paris which quickly turned violent.

As well as a surge in numbers on Saturday, there was a return to the levels of violence that characterised the early protests.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who inspected the damage Saturday evening on the Champs-Elysees, said an estimated 10,000 yellow vest protesters were in Paris and another 4,500 had demonstrated around France.

Still, the numbers paled beside the 30,000 people estimated to be taking part in a separate climate march that was weaving through Paris at the same time, according to Castaner.

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Named after the high-visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the revolt swelled into a broader movement against Macron, his reforms and elitism.

Paris saw some of the worst vandalising and looting in decades in December, but the nationwide protests have generally been getting smaller since then.

President Emmanuel Macron offered concessions to the protesters after the movement swept the nation - including €10bn created to boost the incomes of the poorest workers and pensioners - but they failed to quell the discontent.

His government ordered police to crack down on the protests in January, leading to complaints of police brutality after a series of injuries.

The rally was called to coincide with the end of two months of public debates called by President Emmanuel Macron to give voters a forum to air their grievances and propose policy changes.

A Yellow Vest protester destroys a shop window during clashes with riot police forces on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on March 16, 2019, on the 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations called by the "Yellow Vest" (gilets jaunes) movement.

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