Yellow vest protests turn violent amid clashes between police, protesters

A Yellow Vest protester gestures in front of a newsagent set alight during clashes with riot police

Protest organizers had hoped to make a splash Saturday, which marks the 4-month anniversary of the yellow vest movement, which started November 17, and the end of the "Great Debate" that the French president organized to respond to protesters' concerns about sinking living standards, stagnant wages and high unemployment. A vehicle burned outside luxury boutique Kenzo, one of many blazes on and around the Champs-Elysees.

A Longchamp luxury handbag store was also set alight, along with a restaurant specializing in mussels and the terrasse of a large cafe and several of Paris's iconic green-domed news kiosks.

Around half a million people turned out at townhall-style meetings held around the country, but many "yellow-vest" protesters dismissed the consultation as a smokescreen.

Cafe tables and seats also ended up on the fire and the famous Fouquet's brasserie - favorite locale of the rich and famous, including ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy who controversially used it to celebrate his 2007 election - was also sacked in an orgy of anti-capitalist destruction.

French Yellow Vest protesters set life-threatening fires, smashed up luxury stores and clashed with police on Saturday in the 18th straight weekend of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.

The movement, started initially as a protest against a proposed fuel tax, has expanded to become a protest against the inequality of French society as well as taking in anti-migrant groups.

Laurent Casanova, an engineer who was among the protesters on Saturday, told AFP he wanted to mark the end of the debates. All were attempting to march on the Elysee Palace, Mr Macron's official home, but were held back by barriers and rows of police.The Vests have been protesting since November 17 previous year and, despite a range of concessions by President Macron including scrapping green taxes of diesel and petrol, continue to call for him to step down.

But for seven hours they continued to be pelted with paving stones by mostly black-clad demonstrators.

The bank is located on the ground floor of an apartment building, which which was engulfed by flames.

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Paris police say more than 100 people have been arrested amid rioting in the French capital by yellow vest protesters.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon as the protests turned violent after weeks of relative calm, during which marches had attracted declining numbers of participants.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said thugs looking for trouble had infiltrated the demonstrations and gave the order to respond to "unacceptable attacks with the greatest firmness".

Florian Lointier, spokesman for Paris' firefighters, told The Associated Press that 11 people sustained light injuries Saturday in the blaze, including two firefighters.

Saudi Arabia's embassy in France has advised Saudi citizens to avoid the Champs-Elysées area and areas surrounding it due to the "yellow vest" protests.

The violence started minutes after the protesters gathered Saturday, when they threw smoke bombs and other objects at officers along the famed Champs-Elysees - scene of repeated past rioting - and started pounding on the windows of a police van, prompting riot police to retreat.

Protesters threw cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December. The Yellow Jackets want Macron to respond to their concerns over sinking living standards, stagnant wages and high unemployment.

The protest is one of several planned in Paris on Saturday, where French climate campaigners are also planning a "March of The Century".

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