Violence broke out in Paris during a fourth consecutive weekend of Yellow Vest protests on December 8.
French riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets. Nearly 90,000 officers had been deployed,including 8,000 in Paris where 12 armored vehicles were also used.
More than 1,700 people were arrested, but the violence was not on the same level as a week earlier.
According to the interior ministry, an estimated 125,000 people took part in marches across the country protesting against fuel tax rises and high living costs. Around 10,000 people demonstrated inParis, where the scenes were the most destructive. Windows were smashed, carswere burned and stores were looted.
Video footage showed protesters hitby rubber bullets – including in the face. At least three members of the press were among those hit.
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.
Paris riot police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters demonstrating for a second weekend against rising fuel prices.
Violence erupted on Paris’ best-known avenue, the Champs-Elysées, as protesters tried to get through a security cordon around sensitive sites.
About 5,000 “yellow vest” protesters had converged on the Champs-Elysées. At least 13 people were arrested after clashing with police.
Organizers billed the latest protests as “act two” in their rolling campaign.
Named after their distinctive high-visibility attire, the “yellow vest” protesters oppose an increase in fuel duty on diesel. All drivers in France have to carry the jackets in their cars as part of safety equipment for use in a breakdown.
Along with the familiar red reflective triangle which must be placed behind a broken-down vehicle on the side of a road, the high-visibility jacket – or “gilet jaune” – must be worn by the driver outside the car.
Failure to wear the jacket after a breakdown or accident can result in a €135 ($153) fine under a law introduced in 2008.
Synonymous with driving, the yellow vests have now morphed into the uniform of the movement against higher fuel costs.
Demonstrators on the Champs-Elysées came up against metal barriers and a police-enforced perimeter designed to stop them reaching key buildings such as the prime minister’s official residence.
Some demonstrators ripped up paving stones and threw firecrackers at police while shouting slogans calling for President Emmanuel Macron to resign.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner accused the demonstrators of being influenced by the leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen. However, she accused him, on Twitter, of dishonesty.
Christophe Castaner put the number of people taking part across France at 23,000 by 11AM local time – much less than the first day of Yellow Jacket protests, which drew some 280,000 people a week ago.
The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23% over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 ($1.71) per liter, its highest point since the early 2000s.
World oil prices did rise before falling back again but the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per liter on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, as part of a campaign for cleaner cars and fuel.
The decision to impose a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol on January 1, 2019, was seen as the final straw.
President Emmanuel Macron has blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise. He also said more tax on fossil fuels was needed to fund renewable energy investments.