Dramatic Yellow Vest protests took place over several hours in the French capital, Paris.
Riot police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon on the Champs-Elysées, while masked protesters hurled projectiles and set buildings on fire.
At least 110 people were injured, including 17 members of the security forces, and 270 arrests were made.
One building was set on fire on a major avenue near the Arc de Triomphe and protesters stole an assault rifle from a police vehicle in the center of Paris.
Stores and subway stations were closed as a result of the violence. However, protesters insisted the movement was peaceful.
Protests over fuel tax have grown into general anger at higher living costs.
President Emmanuel Macron says his fuel policies are needed to combat global warming.
One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down an iron gate at the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre museum, which fell on several people.
An assault rifle was also stolen from a police vehicle although it was unclear if it was loaded, AFP quotes a police source as saying.
According to the French interior ministry, at least 75,000 people had turned out across France for the latest “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) rallies – so called because the protesters donned the high-visible vest required to be carried in every vehicle by law.
Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set ablaze, the interior ministry said.
Responding to the day’s events from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, President Macron said the protests “had absolutely nothing to do with a peaceful demonstration of a legitimate unhappiness or discontent.”
President Macron said those responsible did not want change, but instead intended to “wreak chaos”.
Earlier this week, he tried to strike a conciliatory tone, saying he was open to ideas about how the fuel tax could be applied.
However, President Macron’s speech does not appear to have gone far enough in assuaging people of the view that he is out of touch with ordinary people.