Macron HUMILIATED: French leader to cave in as Yellow Vest riots return with a vengeance

He is expected to announce billions of pounds of new hospital funding in a bid to calm unrest in the healthcare industry, which was one of the sparks for year of Gilets Jaunes protests that have followed. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has also invited union leaders in for discussions on new pensions, another major cause for the unrest. French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner yesterday condemned the “foolish thugs” and “brutes” behind the violence that marred demonstrations the previous day marking the first anniversary of the anti-government “yellow vest” movement.

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye warned the citizen-led protest movement had been hijacked by far-left “radicals” who attend rallies “fight”.

“Yesterday, what we saw were few protesters, but mainly thugs and brutes who came to fight the security forces and prevent emergency services from doing their work,” Mr Castaner said in a joint interview with Europe 1 radio, CNews television and newspaper Les Échos.

“These people are also fools – you can be a fool, a brute and a thug at the same time,” he said, adding that Saturday’s rioters were “driven by anger, hate and the desire to fight”.

Across France, police arrested 264 people on Saturday, including 173 in Paris, according to Mr Castaner.

Paris riots

Emmanuel Macron has caved in to Yellow Vest protestors with promises for new funding (Image: GETTY)

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye also condemned the violence, telling Radio J on Sunday that the yellow vest movement had been hijacked and riddled by “ultras” from the far left.

Rioters torched cars and pelted police with stones and bottles and police fired tear gas and water cannons during the rallies to mark a year since the start of the yellow vest rebellion.

Protesters, many clad in black and wearing balaclavas, vandalised an HSBC bank branch at the Place d’Italie in central Paris. They also set bins on fire and erected barricades.

Clashes also broke out between protesters and police near the Porte de Champerret, close to the Arc de Triomphe, as protesters prepared to march across town towards Gare d’Austerlitz.

Yellow vest

Protestors in Paris on the one-year anniversary of the first Yellow Vest demonstration (Image: GETTY)

Around 28,000 people took to the streets of France on Saturday, including 4,700 in Paris. This was more than in recent weeks but less than the record 282,000 estimated for the whole country on November 17, 2018.

Yellow vest activists staged more protests on Sunday, though these were largely peaceful, with just 31 arrests in Paris.

Mr Macron’s critics, for their part, blamed the protest violence on the centrist government.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement was “rubbish” at mapping out Saturday’s protest itinerary, according to far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Yellow Vest

Yellow vest protestors set fires in Paris on Saturday (Image: GETTY)

“[Mr Lallement] said the protest should start at Place d’Italie, but there are works going on there. You don’t need to be very intelligent to understand it wasn’t a good starting point. He was rubbish. He alone created the conditions that led to the chaos,” Mr Mélenchon told France 3 television.

“The government is trying to scare people into silence… But authority is not authoritarianism,” he added in a reference to the heavy-handed tactics of riot police.

MEP Jordan Bardella, vice president of the far-right Rassemblement national (RN) party, accused the government of “allowing far-left militants to tear apart the yellow vest movement”.

“The government is complicit in the situation of disorder,” Mr Bardella told Europe 1 radio on Monday.

Yellow Vest

Demonstrators held running battles with police in Paris on Saturday (Image: GETTY)

The yellow vest protests, named after the high-visibility safety jackets worn by demonstrators, erupted in November 2018 over planned fuel tax hikes and the high cost of living.

But the weekly rallies quickly morphed into a broader revolt against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business economic reforms, seen as favouring the wealthy over the working class.

The social crisis forced Mr Macron to make policy concessions and delay the next wave of reforms, including overhauling the retirement and unemployment systems.

But his plans to simplify the unwieldy and expensive pension system – launched in September after months on the back burner – is particularly unpopular and likely to reignite yellow vest anger.

Mr Macron wants to merge France’s 42 different pension systems into a single, points-based scheme in a bid to make it fairer and plug a chronic deficit. But critics say the changes will force people to work for longer and less.

Trade unions have called on railway workers, Paris public transport staff, truck drivers and civil servants to strike against the pensions overhaul on December 5 and in some cases beyond. Students and yellow vests have called for people to join forces with the unions.

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