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Blazes, clashes hit Paris during yellow vest protest

AP  |  Paris 

Large plumes of smoke rose above Paris' landmark Champs-Elysees avenue as French yellow vest protesters set fires, smashed up luxury stores and clashed with police Saturday in a 18th straight weekend of demonstrations against

Police tried to contain the demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons. Fire trucks rushed to extinguish two burning newspaper kiosks that were set ablaze, sending black smoke high into the sky.

As demonstrators targeted symbols of the luxury industry, shops including brands and Lacoste were smashed up and pillaged, and mannequins thrown out of the broken

A posh eatery called Fouquet's, which is associated with and celebrities, was vandalized and set on fire. A vehicle burned outside luxury boutique Kenzo, one of many blazes on and around the Champs-Elysees.

The violence started when protesters threw smoke bombs and other objects at officers along the famed avenue scene of repeated past rioting and started pounding on the of a police van. then retreated, with protesters kicking the side of the large truck.

said there were 7,000-8,000 demonstrators in on Saturday of which 1,500 were "ultraviolent ones that are there to smash things up."

Pushing a hard line, Castaner ordered police to retaliate against these "inadmissible" acts, condemning those who "call for violence and are here to ferment chaos in " After dwindling numbers in recent weekends, protesters are hoping their latest day of action can breathe new life into their movement against a seen as favouring the elite.

police told that 64 people were arrested by early afternoon. Bracing for a potential uptick in protester numbers and violence, the French capital deployed more police Saturday than in previous weekends. Police closed down several streets and fanned out around the

Yellow vest groups representing teachers, unemployed people and labour unions were among those that organised dozens of rallies and marches Saturday in the capital and around

The actions mark the end of a two-month national debate that organised to respond to protesters' concerns.

Protesters dismiss the debate as empty words and a campaign ploy by for elections in May. They are angry over high taxes and Macron policies seen as coddling the business world.

"Those who participated in this great debate are mostly retirees and upper middle class, meaning Macron's electorate, even though we understood this great national debate was supposed to respond to the yellow vest crisis," and protester told Europe-1 radio.

In their for Saturday's protests, organizers said they wanted the day to serve as an "ultimatum" to "the and the powerful.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, March 16 2019. 19:00 IST