PARIS — The “gilets jaunes” movement shows no sign of dying down.
Now in its fourth month, the wave of antigovernment protests gathered 10,000 people in Paris on Saturday, according to AFP.
Protests took a particularly violent turn on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, echoing the first acts of vandalism witnessed on Nov. 24. According to a statement issued by the Comité Champs-Élysées and quoted by AFP, a total of 80 businesses were damaged on Saturday.
Parts of Fouquet’s, a high-end restaurant known for having hosted former French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s election party, were set on fire. The restaurant also had its awnings torn down and windows smashed.
“Like a huge majority of French people, today I feel a great anger,” wrote French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on Twitter. “The acts committed today weren’t done by protesters, but by looters, incendiaries and criminals. No cause justifies this violence.”
According to the AFP, quoting a statement issued by the French police, 109 protesters were arrested on Saturday afternoon by some of the 5,000 armed forces deployed over the Champs-Élysées area. At 7 p.m. CET, local news channel France Info reported 192 arrests in Paris.
“In addition to these acts of vandalism, there is a traumatic effect on the 15,000 people who work on the Champs-Élysées, on those living in the area, on those visiting it,” said Jean-Noël Reinhardt, president of the Comité Champs-Élysées, to France Info on Sunday. “In addition to that, there is a profound attack on the essence of the Champs-Élysées — a part of French history, a piece of our heritage — and on the image of France across the world.”
An emergency meeting to discuss the economic impact of the protests has been scheduled at the French finance ministry on Monday, in the presence of French finance minister Bruno Le Maire.
Barricades closed off the Faubourg Saint-Honoré area on Saturday morning, with most luxury stores choosing to keep their doors shut. Some of them, including high-end florist Lachaume, boarded up windows.
Eight metro stations remained closed all day, according to messages broadcast by the RATP, including the four stops on Line 1 leading up to the Champs-Élysées.
Dubbed “Act 18,” marking the 18th protest weekend in a row, this new wave of unrest comes just as French president Emmanuel Macron puts an end to his “Grand Débat,” a nationwide series of discussions aiming to help gilets jaunes protesters be heard by the French government.