Yellow Vest Anger Burns in France, Fueled by Notre Dame FirePosted: April 21, 2019
PARIS — French yellow vest protesters set fires Saturday along a march through Paris to drive home their message to a government they believe is ignoring the poor: that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t the only problem France needs to solve.
Like the high-visibility vests the protesters wear, the scattered small fires in Paris appeared to be a collective plea to French President Emmanuel Macron’s government to “look at me — I need help too!”
Police fired water cannon and sprayed tear gas to try to control radical elements rampaging on the margins of the largely peaceful march, one of several actions around Paris and other French cities.
The protests marked the 23rd straight weekend of yellow vest actions against Macron’s centrist government, which they see as favoring the wealthy and big business. Protesters view themselves as standing up for beleaguered French workers , students and retirees who have been battered by high unemployment, high taxes and shrinking purchasing power.
But violence and divisions have marred the movement.
Associated Press reporters saw a car, motorbikes and barricades set ablaze around the Place de la Republique plaza in eastern Paris. The smell of tear gas mixed with the smoke, choking the air.
Paris firefighters — who struggled earlier this week to prevent the 12th-century Notre Dame from collapsing — quickly responded to extinguish the flames at Saturday’s protest.
Masked protesters hurled paving stones and flares. Helmeted riot police repeatedly charged as they tried to contain the crowd. AP reporters saw at least two journalists injured in the melee. Troublemakers also ransacked at least two stores and one black-clad protester jumped on a parked Mercedes, smashing its windshields.
Paris police said authorities detained more than 200 people by early afternoon and carried out spot checks on more than 20,000 trying to enter the capital for the protest … (read more)