PARIS — The French capital was in lockdown mode once again on Saturday as the gilets jaunes (or yellow vests) took to the streets to mark the first anniversary of their movement. They were accompanied by so-called black blocs, a group of anarchists and anticapitalist vandals.
The demonstrations, which often spiraled into violence, were scattered throughout Paris, including a gathering of an estimated 3,000 people on the Place d’Italie in the city’s southeastern section, starting in the morning. There, the shuttered Italie 2 commercial center was targeted and its windows smashed.
The mall in early October had been the scene of a demonstration organized by the ecological movement Extinction Rebellion (or XR), which staged an overnight sit-in there as a statement against consumerism.
On Place d’Italie on Saturday, as well as in other parts of Paris and France, cars were set on fire and overturned, traffic was blocked and clashes erupted with police, who used water cannons and teargas to try to quell the protesters.
Even as evening set in, sirens wailed perpetually as police vehicles sped through Paris, gilets jaunes and black blocs roamed the streets, and teargas wafted in the wind.
Demonstrators began gathering near the Les Halles shopping center in central Paris.
By 6 p.m. CET, 113 people had been brought in for questioning by police in the city.
The gilets jaunes movement, which takes its name from the yellow reflective safety vests sported by its demonstrators, started as discontent over a fuel tax but subsequently broadened to encompass a range of frustrations with declining living standards in France.
On many Saturdays at the beginning of the movement swathes of Paris were shut down in case of violence, which had broken out on the tony Avenue des Champs-Elysées shopping street, among other locales. But as months went by the numbers of protesters dropped, clashes subsided and the city was able to resume its habitual pace.