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Tear gas fired by police as yellow vest protesters mark anniversary

A total of 46 people had been detained in Paris by early afternoon on Saturday.

A protestor kicks away a tear gas canister during a yellow vest demonstration in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP/PA)
A protestor kicks away a tear gas canister during a yellow vest demonstration in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP/PA)

By Claire Parker, Associated Press

Tear gas and water cannon were used on Saturday as Paris police sought to disperse yellow vest protesters marking the first anniversary of the birth of their movement against government policies seen as favouring the rich.

Officers deployed in force around the capital and had detained 46 people by early afternoon.

They used tear gas as protesters tried to smash windows and enter into a shopping mall.

Some were seen throwing stones at officers and setting fire to bins, a motorcycle and other urban equipment on Place d’Italie, in the south-east of the city.

Earlier, the windows of a bank and several bus shelters in the area had been broken, leading to several police charges.

Police managed to dislodge protesters trying to block the bypass around Paris and sprayed repeated volleys of tear gas at groups gathered near Porte de Champerret, in the northwest, and Place d’Italie.

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A demonstrator is detained by police officers in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP/PA)

Protests were taking place around the country at traffic circles where the grassroots movement first took root in November 2018 in protest at plans to raise fuel taxes.

The outpouring of anger at perceived social and economic injustice eventually prompted President Emmanuel Macron to reverse some of his tax plans and to offer 10 billion euro in measures to address protesters’ concerns.

Some protesters in Paris wore the high-visibility vests drivers are required to carry in their cars that gave the movement its name. Other demonstrators wore all black, their faces protected with gas masks.

Waving French flags, blowing whistles, and beating drums, some demonstrators marched in north-western Paris streets, singing their trademark song: “We are here, we are here. Even if Macron doesn’t want it, we are here.”

Dozens of police in riot gear guarded the Arc de Triomphe overlooking the Champs-Elysees, which was the scene of weekly rioting and police crackdowns at the height of last year’s protests.

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Riot police step over a wall as they push back demonstrators on the bypass in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP/PA)

The French government has also pledged to cut taxes for households next year by nine billion euro, a spending boost that has its roots in the yellow vest movement.

Rosa Drissi, who joined the movement on its first day, said she struggles to make ends meet with just 800 euro per month. She said she is protesting “for my retirement, and for my buying power.”

Ms Drissi said the movement has evolved since the start.

“We were novices at the beginning. We didn’t know politics; we didn’t know how to be in the streets. We didn’t know how to protest,” she said. “We made errors, we made mistakes. That’s normal.”

Some protesters in other countries subsequently adopted the yellow vests as a symbol of anti-government anger.

PA

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