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Paris police chief fired over Champs-Elysées riots as French government to ban protests in trouble spots

Paris police chief fired over Champs-Elysées riots as French government to ban protests in trouble spotsThe Paris police chief has been fired for failing to contain violent riots that saw a string of flagship restaurants and shops torched along the French capital’s famed Champs-Elysées. The government announcement came after top security officials acknowledged that attempts by 5,000 police to stop several hundred black-clad rioters running amok along “the world’s most beautiful avenue” for seven hours on Saturday had been an abject “failure”. Nominally part of the ”yellow vest" movement, masked rioters burned down the famous Fouquet's restaurant as well as several newspaper stands, a string of luxury shops and vehicles. The shocking weekend scenes, in which a mother and child narrowly escaped death in a burning building, pose a fresh security headache to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, after four months of “gilet jaunes” protests and amid opposition claims he is a soft touch on hooligans. Caught napping, Mr Macron had rushed back from a ski break to pledge "strong measures” amid calls on social media for fresh violence next Saturday. The Right-wing opposition accused the president of being a soft touch, while police unions said they had not been given sufficiently robust orders to engage with rioters. Paris' police chief is to be replaced for failing to quell riots in the French capital on Saturday Credit: ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP After crisis security talks on Monday, Edouard Philippe, the French prime minister, said: “The strategy for maintaining order was not correctly executed.” As a result, he said Paris police chief Michel Delpuech would be replaced by the current state prefect of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, Didier Lallement. Mr Philippe pledged to ban “yellow vest” demonstrations in the worst-hit areas – including the Champs-Elysées but also squares in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulouse – if police deem they have been infiltrated by ultra-violent trouble makers. In these three areas, police will have “greater autonomy” to disband any groups with the use of“drones” and “marker products” to identity individuals. Fines for those who participate in illegal gatherings will be “significantly increased”. Mr Philippe also promised to beef up Paris’ police’s security doctrine to engage in more “contact” with rioters at the behest of police unions, despite the risk of greater injury. "You have to take responsibility and engage, with the possibility that people will get hurt," said Frederic Lagache of the Alliance police union. France has for decades preferred to tackle mass protests with tear gas and rubber bullets but avoid physical clashes against large groups. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the government decision to replace the Paris police chief and ban "yellow vest" protests in trouble spots Credit:  BERTRAND GUAY/AFP In another potentially controversial move, Mr Philippe effectively backed greater use of “defensive ball launchers”, or LBD, which a top French rights ombudsman and the UN have criticised as too dangerous. Dozens of protesters have been injured by these, including some who claim to have lost an eye after being hit by such rubber projectiles.  One police union said LBDs had been replaced with “marshmallows” to placate such groups, leaving officers exposed against protesters hurling paving stones and other weapons. Mr Philippe said he regretted that “inappropriate orders had been given (on Saturday) to reduce their use”. The new surge in violence came as the four-month-old yellow vest movement demanding economic justice was dying down and a nationwide “great debate” on those demands came to a close. Mr Macron’s participation in a string of discussions had seen his popularity rise after plummeting early on in the protests but commentators said the latest violence risks seeing those gains falter. Some 91 businesses were damaged in last Saturday's riots Last month the French parliament passed an "anti-troublemakers" bill, which will only take effect once the Constitutional Council rubber stamps it. If enacted, it will grant regional prefects powers to prevent people seen as a serious threat to public order from protesting, and would force protesters involved in violence to pay for damage. It would also make it a crime for protesters to conceal their faces, punishable by up to one year in prison and a €15,000 (£13,000) fine. The bill has been criticised by rights groups, opposition members and even members of Mr Macron's centrist party as going too far in restricting freedoms. The Right-wing opposition says it doesn’t go far enough.  The Paris region's Chamber of Commerce said 91 businesses suffered damage in the Champs-Elysées riots. It called for an "emergency plan" to support the those shopkeepers and employees.  The French insurance federation put the figure for claims linked to yellow vest violence over the past four months at €170 million, not counting last Saturday's damage.



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Unrest returns to Paris with worst yellow vest violence in weeks

Unrest returns to Paris with worst yellow vest violence in weeksAnti-government protesters hurled rocks and paving slabs at police, looted boutiques, smashed up a luxury restaurant on Paris’s famed Champs-Elysées and set a bank on fire on Saturday. A mother and her baby trapped on the second floor of the building, as flames surged up from the bank branch on the ground floor, were rescued by firefighters. The bank offices were gutted and 11 people were slightly injured, including two police officers. Smoke and tear gas shrouded the Champs-Elysées and at least 109 people were arrested in the worst outbreak of violence on the fringes of a “yellow vest” demonstration in Paris for several weeks. President Emmanuel Macron has cut short his skiing holiday to return to Paris to chair an emergency meeting over what the authorities are describing as "intolerable violence and damage".   Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, tweeted that those who set the bank on fire “are neither demonstrators nor troublemakers: they are killers.”  Grinning “yellow vest” protesters posed for photographs in front of the shattered facade of Le Fouquet’s, a restaurant that earned Nicolas Sarkozy the nickname of “President Bling-bling” when he celebrated his 2007 election victory there.  A Yellow Vest protester gestures in front of a newsagent set alight during clashes with riot police Credit:  ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/ AFP A Yellow Vest protester destroys a shop window during clashes with riot police forces on the Champs-Elysees Credit: AFP Much of the violence on the 18th consecutive Saturday of protests against President Macron’s economic reforms was blamed on anarchists, far-Right and ultra-leftist agitators rather than the “yellow vests” themselves.  Police estimated the number of demonstrators at about 32,000 across France. About 5,000 police officers were deployed in Paris alone. The numbers of protesters have dwindled since the “yellow vest” movement began in November, amid growing anger over income inequality and a lack of public services in rural areas and small towns.  Fouquet’s was the favoured status restaurant of Nicolas Sarkozy. Was. GiletsJaunespic.twitter.com/LUXGoKy7yW— Peter Allen (@peterallenparis) March 16, 2019 More took to the streets on Saturday compared with recent weeks, following social media calls for a strong turnout to mark the four-month anniversary of the movement’s launch. President Macron wrapped up a “great debate” consultation exercise on Friday to allow people to vent their grievances, which has helped him to regain some of the popularity lost since his election. Some “yellow vests” have dismissed the exercise as a campaign ploy ahead of European elections in May. The Yellow Vest protests About 30,000 people took part in a separate, peaceful demonstration to demand urgent government action to combat climate change



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Yellow vest 'ultimatum' rally turns violent in Paris

Yellow vest 'ultimatum' rally turns violent in ParisAfter weeks of declining participation, France’s “yellow vest” protest movement attempted to rebound on Saturday with a major rally in Paris which quickly turned violent. A large crowd gathered on the Champs-Elysees avenue for the 18th straight week of anti-government protests which initially rocked President Emmanuel Macron’s administration, forcing him to adopt more anti-poverty measures, but had appeared to fizzle in recent weeks. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who erected barricades near the Champs-Elysees in scenes reminiscent of some of the most tense “yellow vest” rallies.



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'It's the apocalypse': Paris rioters run amok at yellow vest rallies

'It's the apocalypse': Paris rioters run amok at yellow vest ralliesThe Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris was a sea of black and yellow on Saturday as black-clad anarchists used a “yellow vest” rally to run amok, looting shops and torching businesses in scenes reminiscent of the riots that shook the city late last year. The demonstrator was referring to December 1, when protesters went on the rampage in Paris, smearing the Arc de Triomphe war memorial in graffiti in a frenzy of vandalism, looting and arson. The violence prompted President Emmanuel Macron’s government to rescind planned fuel tax hikes and announce billions in measures to assist the working poor.



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Paris luxury stores looted, burned in 'yellow vest' riots

Paris luxury stores looted, burned in 'yellow vest' riotsRioters looted and torched shops and businesses on the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on Saturday, on the 18th weekend of French “yellow vest” protests, characterised by a sharp increase in violence after weeks of dwindling turnout. President Emmanuel Macron cut short a ski weekend in the Pyrenees mountains as hooded protesters went on the rampage in Paris, leaving a trail of destruction in the touristic heart of the city. The police appeared overrun as protesters swarmed the Champs-Elysees, vandalising and later setting fire to Fouquet’s brasserie, a favourite hangout of the rich and famous for the past century — as well as luxury handbag store Longchamp, a bank, another restaurant and several news stands.



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The Latest: Posh Paris restaurant set on fire amid protests

The Latest: Posh Paris restaurant set on fire amid protestsPARIS (AP) — The Latest on yellow vest protests in France (all times local):



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Spanish citizen killed in Paris gas blast: Spanish foreign minister

Spanish citizen killed in Paris gas blast: Spanish foreign ministerA Spanish citizen has died following a gas explosion in central Paris on Saturday, bringing the death toll to three, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said. “I profoundly regret the death of three people in an explosion in central Paris, among them one Spanish citizen,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.



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Two firefighters, Spanish tourist killed in Paris gas leak blast

Two firefighters, Spanish tourist killed in Paris gas leak blastA powerful gas explosion tore through a building in central Paris on Saturday, killing two firefighters and a Spanish woman, injuring dozens of people and badly damaging nearby apartments, officials said. Around 200 firefighters were mobilised to battle the fire that broke out after the blast and evacuate victims and residents in the area, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters at the scene. The explosion came with the city on edge during the latest “yellow vest” anti-government demonstrations, which have often degenerated into violence and vandalism in Paris and other cities in recent weeks.



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Police teargas 'yellow vest' protesters in Paris

Police teargas 'yellow vest' protesters in ParisPolice fired tear gas at “yellow vest” demonstrators in Paris on Saturday but the turnout for round seven of the popular protests that have rocked France appeared low. Several hundred people wearing the symbolic hi-visibility vests had gathered near the offices of several state-run television stations and the BFM TV channel in the centre of the capital shouting “Fake news” and calling for the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. Protesters spilled onto tram lines and lobbed projectiles at police who replied with tear gas grenades and detained several people.



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Paris 'yellow vest' protests lose steam after Emmanuel Macron concessions

Paris 'yellow vest' protests lose steam after Emmanuel Macron concessionsDefiant “yellow vest” demonstrators took to the streets of Paris and other French cities on Saturday, but the anti-government protests appeared to be losing steam after major concessions by President Emmanuel Macron and another deadly terror attack on French soil. Riot police fired tear gas and fought with protesters on the Champs Elysées and elsewhere in the capital, but these were minor incidents compared with the widespread rioting and looting that took place a week ago. More than 66,000 took part in demos across the country, half the number of a week ago, and in Paris 2,200 people participated, far fewer than the 10,000 who turned out last Saturday, according to interior ministry figures. Face-off: Police stand guard as 'Mariannes' from the feminist group Femen join the Paris protests Credit: ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP/Getty Images On Place de la République in Paris, a few hundred yellow vests congregated in rain and near-zero temperatures after being pushed out of the Opera district by riot police. They unfurled a banner with the slogan: “We want a president of the poor”, a jibe at Mr Macron who many French accuse of being a “president of the rich” who has neglected the small-town and rural voters who make up the bulk of the yellow vest movement. The former investment banker, who is facing the biggest crisis of his presidency, unveiled a series of concessions on Monday to defuse the yellow vest crisis, which takes its name from the high visibility jackets all drivers in France are legally obliged to keep in their cars. He was hoping that the package of tax and minimum wage measures for low-income workers would help bring calm to the country after more than a month of clashes and disruption. French security forces intervene as protests weakened in the face of terror threats Credit:  Anadolu His move appeased many French, with public support for the yellow vest protests dropping from more than 80 percent to around 50 percent. But many others, who say the new measures will still not enable them to make ends meet, were set on continuing the protests to try and squeeze more concessions out of the 40-year-old president. “His (Macron’s) taxes will cancel out the rise in the minimum wage,” a 49-year-old computer technician, who declined to give his name, told The Telegraph on the Place de la République. Five 'Mariannes' – the national symbol of the French Republic – confront the gendarmerie Credit: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images He said he had no intention of giving up the fight, and rejected the government’s call for calm in the wake of a terror attack this week in Strasbourg in which a gunman shot dead four people before being caught, two days later, and shot dead by police.  “That’s merely an excuse to try and keep us off the streets. The attack and this protest have nothing to do with each other,” he said. Protesters wearing yellow vests (gilets jaunes) demonstrate against rising oil prices and deteriorating economic conditions along the Champs-Elysee About 8,000 police – four times the number of demonstrators – and 14 armoured vehicles were deployed across Paris for Saturday’s demonstration, and many streets in the city centre were honeycombed with checkpoints where officers in riot gear checked bags and coats for weapons and helmets.  Police said 112 people were taken into custody in Paris.  The number of deaths linked to the protest rose to seven after Belgian police said a man accidentally crashed his car on Friday night into a truck that had stalled at a yellow vest roadblock on the Franco-Belgian border. 



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