France is considering to impose a state of emergency to prevent a recurrence of some of the worst civil unrest in more than a decade, with hundreds arrested. Police have arrested hundreds of people in widespread protests against petrol prices and Macron’s leadership. The “yellow vests” have been demonstrating since November 17 and were fuelled by social media.Vehicles and buildings have been set ablaze from Paris to Marseille. Paris police say 133 people were injured and 412 had been arrested during the urban riot.
The authorities were caught off guard by the escalation in violence after two weeks of nationwide protests against fuel taxes and living costs, known as the “yellow vest” movement after fluorescent jackets kept in all vehicles in France. Groups of young men with faces masked, some carrying metal bars and axes, rioted on the streets of central Paris, setting a dozen vehicles ablaze and torching buildings.
President Emmanuel Macron will hold an emergency meeting with the Prime Minister and Interior Minister to discuss the riots and how to begin a dialogue with the protest movement, which has no real structure or leadership. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux urged peaceful protesters to come to the negotiating table. “We have to think about the measures that can be taken so that these incidents don’t happen again,” he said.
When asked about imposing a state of emergency, Griveaux said it would be among the options considered. “It is out of the question that each weekend becomes a meeting or ritual for violence.”
Authorities said violent groups from the far right and far left as well as “thugs” from the suburbs had infiltrated the yellow vests movement in Paris on Saturday, although Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said most of those arrested were regular protesters who had been egged on by fringe groups.
Paul Marra, a yellow vest activist in Marseille said that the government was to blame for the violence across the country. “We condemn what happened, but it was inevitable. The violence started from the top. The biggest thug is the state through its inaction.”