Paris Picks Up the Pieces After Protests

A demonstrator watches a burning car near the Champs Elysees avenue during a demonstration last Saturday in Paris. 

ASSOCIATED PRESS A demonstrator watches a burning car near the Champs Elysees avenue during a demonstration last Saturday in Paris

Officials estimated that 8,000 protesters had made their way to Paris from across France, among 31,000 turning out nationwide - numbers similar to a week ago.

Although Saturday's protest in the French capital started out quietly, by early evening almost 1,000 people had been taken into custody and 135 people had been injured.

Police in the city took measures against possible unrest, as in previous weeks over 1,000 protesters gathered, erecting barricades and targeting police vehicles as well as damaging shops.

In the Grands Boulevards shopping district, masked protesters threw rocks at riot police and set fire to a barricade hastily assembled from stolen dustbins and Christmas trees.

Steve Bannon, the former strategist of US President Donald Trump, said at an event on Saturday in Brussels that the Yellow Vests in France are the "exact same type of people" that voted for Trump and for Brexit.

"Calls on social media for protesters to attack the police or march on the presidential palace have especially rattled the authorities".

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"We did the first act, Macron did not hear us, act two, he ignored us, act three, we don't exist, today we do act four to see if he reacts", a protester in Paris told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

Yet in a sign of the financial disconnect that infuriates numerous protesters, a few blocks from the famed boulevard, people were sitting in Paris cafes, drinking cocktails and chatting. "Protests and riots all over France", Trump said earlier Saturday.

French authorities on Saturday arrested more than 650 protesters during the latest wave of anti-government protests over a hike in fuel prices in the capital, global media reported.

The Eiffel Tower, major museums and many metro stations were also closed as parts of central Paris went on effective lockdown.

The protesters began blocking roads, fuel depots and shopping centres around France on November 17 over soaring petrol prices that have hit people in the provinces who get around by vehicle. "People have well understood that if they want to demonstrate peacefully, they have to submit to these checks", she said.

But the "yellow vests", some of whom who have become increasingly radicalised, are holding out for more.

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The demonstrators began blockading roads over rising fuel taxes on November 17 but their list of demands have since grown, with many calling for the resignation of Macron, whom they accuse of favouring the rich.

A popular demand is a reversal of his decision to slash taxes on France's wealthiest in a bid to boost investment and create jobs - something he has so far ruled out.

The relative calm seemed to owe more to the revised police tactics than to the government's decision to cancel the petrol and diesel tax rises that had been due to take effect next year.

But the policy, along with hikes on pensioners' taxes, cuts in housing allowances and a string of comments deemed insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to label him a "president of the rich".

Protests at dozens of schools over university reforms, and a call by farmers for demonstrations next week, have added to a sense of general revolt in France.

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