Paris riots: At least 80 injured as police and protesters violently clash

Ambulance workers hold flares outside the National Assembly in Paris Monday Dec. 3 2018. Ambulance workers took to the streets and gathered close to the National Assembly in downtown Paris to complain about changes to working conditions as French Prime

Michel Euler AP

Some of them helped build the barricades set up in the streets to hamper the advance of the police.

He has vowed that those responsible for the violence will pay for their actions. Demonstrations were dubbed the "yellow vest" protests over the roadside safety vests worn by the protesters. So far, the protests were peaceful. France's failure to quell the anger has led to copycat yellow jacket movements in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Paris police say 133 people were injured and 412 arrested after protesters torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores, threw rocks at police and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with graffiti in the French capital.

But recent polls show around between 70 and 80 per cent of French citizens support the protests.

An assault rifle was stolen from a police vehicle, a source told AFP, though it was unclear if it was loaded.

"Those guilty of this violence don't want change", he said.

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France's President Emmanuel Macron, centre left, France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, center, Secretary of State to the Interior Minister Laurent Nunez, left, and Paris police Prefect Michel Delpuech, right, arrive to visit firefighters and riot police officers the day after a demonstration, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018.

"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. The violence essentially reached levels unseen in decades in France.

Outside Paris, a government building was seriously damaged by fire in Puy-en-Velay, in the south-central department of Haute-Loire.

The popular rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov 17 and spread quickly via social media, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots. They said they'd seen police allow protesters into confined areas and then not let them out after firing tear gas, and threatening to fire rubber bullets on peaceful protesters.

Arriving back from the G-20 summit in Argentina, Mr Macron had earlier rushed to the Arc de Triomphe, a revered monument and epicentre of Saturday's clashes, where protesters had scrawled "Macron resign" and "The yellow vests will triumph". Three people have now died in incidents linked to the protests.

Griveaux urged the yellow vest movement to disassociate itself from radical groups that had instigated the violence, organize itself and come to the negotiating table.

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Asked on the BFMTV news station about a police union's call for a state of emergency to be reimposed, he said: "Nothing is taboo for me. I am prepared to examine everything".

"We thought, "Oh, that's our holiday over", said Yao Lei, a Chinese tourist from Shanghai who arrived in Paris at dawn and had received video images of the chaos on his flight.

Speaking on BFM TV late on Saturday, Castaner said the authorities had put all security measures in place to forestall disturbances, but that they had faced extremely violent, organized and determined groups.

"He has to come down off his pedestal", she said under cold rain on the Champs Elysees. "Every month I have to dip into my savings".

Macron faces a dilemma in how to respond to the "yellow vests", not least because they are a grassroots movement with no formal leaders and a wide range of demands.

The additional taxes on fuel were the last straw for the protesters who are backed by 84 percent of the French people, according to a survey.

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Police fired stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon at protesters at the top of the Champs-Elysees, at the Tuilleries Garden near the Louvre museum, and other sites.

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