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Violence taints new wave of anti-fuel tax protests in France

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-11-24 18:05
Demonstrators protest in Bayonne, southwestern France, Nov 19, 2018. [Photo/IC]

PARIS - A new day of a social movement on Saturday protesting French president Emmanuel Macron's plan to hike tax on fuel was marred by violence which led to scores of arrests and dozens of wounded, as demonstrators and police clashed notably in Paris.

By 1600 GMT, 106,301 people took part in demonstrations across France, including 8,000 in the French capital, compared to 282,710 protesters numbered the same time last Saturday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

Castaner added 130 individuals had been detained country-wide and 19 people were wounded, including four gendarmes.

"Shame on those who attacked (police). Shame on those who have assaulted other citizens and journalists. Shame on those who have tried to intimidate elected officials. No place for this violence in the Republic," Macron tweeted.

Wearing yellow jacket -- the high visibility vests drivers keep in their cars, demonstrators blocked motorways and access to shopping centres in many French cities.

In Paris where the worst clashes were reported, 5,000 people converged to the Champs Elysees and defied a police ban on protests in the capital's main avenue.

Violence broke out as the crowd, in which far-right extremists had been infiltrated, forced their way to reach the presidential palace, according to the minister.

A trailer was set on fire and exploded on the Champs Elysees. Protesters also threw projectiles at anti-riot police which responded by tear gas and water cannon to disperse them.

"The right to protest is a fundamental right. The right to block, to destroy will be systematically punished," Castaner stressed.

3,000 police officers were poured in Paris on Saturday to preserve calm in France's most vibrant city.

"They will stay until the situation returns to normal," according to Paris prefect Michel Delpuech.

With no leader, the "Yellow Vests" movement was created on social media, after several groups have called for blockades and go-slow operations across the country to oppose higher fuel tax and the rise in diesel's price, the most commonly used car fuel in France.

For more than a week, protesters have blocked highways in many regions, obstructed access to fuel depots, shopping centers and some factories.

Its supporters have reportedly been coordinating on social media to stage more nationwide blockades next month that may paralyze the country during Christmas festivities.

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