France considers 'all options' to quell violent protests
Posted December 2, 2018 8:17 a.m. EST
(CNN) — The French government is considering "all options" to control protests against rising fuel prices that have turned violent in Paris over the last three weeks, a spokesman said Sunday.
Speaking on France's Europe 1 radio, spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the government is thinking about steps to prevent "serious outbursts of violence," including introducing a state of emergency.
More than 400 people were arrested and 113 injured in Paris on Saturday in clashes between police and protesters with the "gilets jaune" or "yellow vest" movement, who are protesting rising gas prices and taxes on polluting forms of transport.
An estimated 36,000 people demonstrated in Saturday's protests across the country Saturday, marking the third consecutive week of such demonstrations, according to the French Interior Ministry. About 53,000 participated last week and about 113,000 the week before.
Griveaux said that between 1,000 and 1,500 people joined Saturday's demonstrations "only to fight with the police, to break and loot." He added that those protesters "have nothing to do with the yellow vests."
Footage shared by French police on Saturday showed a few demonstrators striking a police vehicle and smashing its windshield. Other videos captured burning cars and police firing tear gas to disperse protesters.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had mentioned a state of emergency, Griveaux said. French President Emmanuel Macron, the Prime Minister and the Interior Ministry were scheduled to meet Sunday morning to "take stock of what happened yesterday and the measures we can take to avoid it," he said. "There is no way each weekend can become a ritual of violence."
Rising fuel prices are largely attributed to a leap in the wholesale price of oil worldwide.
But the protests have evolved into a broader demonstration against Macron, his government, and tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.
Macron has borne the brunt of the demonstrators' anger instead of OPEC for reducing oil production, or the US for imposing tariffs on Iran, which crippled oil exports.
Many protesters are angry with Macron for extending the environmental policies that were first implemented by former President François Hollande.
The violent protests and vandalism in Paris have "absolutely nothing to do with the peaceful demonstrations of a legitimate unhappiness or discontent," Macron said on Saturday at a news conference in Buenos Aires, where he was attending the G20 summit.
"No cause justifies that security forces are attacked, shops pillaged, public or private buildings set on fire, pedestrians or journalists threatened or that the Arc de Triomphe is sullied," Macron said.
Those responsible will be identified and taken to court, he added.
Upon his return to Paris on Sunday, Macron immediately visited the capital's Arc de Triomphe -- a flashpoint in Saturday's violent protests -- to "take stock of the damage" and pay tribute to the tomb of the unknown soldier at its base, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported.
He also met with police officers and firefighters who worked to contain the protests, BFMTV said.