Riot police on Saturday were overwhelmed as protesters ran amok in Paris’ posh neighborhoods, torching dozens of cars, looting boutiques and smashing up luxury private homes and cafes in the worst disturbances the capital has seen since 1968.
The unrest poses the most formidable challenge yet to Macron’s presidency, with the escalating violence and depth of public anger against his economic reforms catching the 40-year-old leader off-guard and battling to regain control.
Arriving back from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron rushed to the Arc de Triomphe, a revered monument and epicenter of Saturday’s clashes, where protesters had scrawled “Macron resign” and “The yellow vests will triumph”.
The “yellow vest” rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. Violent groups from the far right and far left as well as anarchists infiltrated Saturday’s protests, the authorities said.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the Macron administration was considering imposing a state of emergency. The president was open to dialogue, he said, but would not reverse policy reforms.
“We won’t change course. We are certain of that,” he told Europe 1 radio. Asked about imposing a state of emergency, Griveaux said it would be among the options considered.
As he spoke, workmen in the upper-crust district of central Paris set about cleaning the defaced Arc, removing charred hulks of cars and replacing the shattered windows of banks, restaurants and glitzy boutiques.