France considering state of emergency to prevent recurring civil unrest, says government spokesperson

Paris: France will consider imposing a state of emergency to prevent a recurrence of some of the worst civil unrest in more than a decade and urged peaceful protestors to come to the negotiating table, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on Sunday.

Groups of young men with faces masked, some carrying metal bars and axes, rioted on the streets of central Paris on Saturday, setting a dozen vehicles ablaze, torching buildings, looting shops, smashing windows and fighting police in the worst unrest the capital has seen since 1968, posed the most formidable challenge Emmanuel Macron has faced in his 18-month-old presidency.

A yellow vest hanged inside a vandalized store on Sunday morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France. Reuters

A yellow vest hanged inside a vandalized store on Sunday morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes, in Paris, France. Reuters

Disturbances also rocked several cities and towns and across France - from Charleville Mezieres in the northeast to Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south.

"We have to think about the measures that can be taken so that these incidents don’t happen again," Griveaux told Europe 1 radio.

When asked about imposing a state of emergency, he said the French president, prime minister and interior minister would discuss all options available to them at a meeting on Sunday.

The popular rebellion erupted out of nowhere on 17 November and has spread quickly via social media, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots.

The protests began as a backlash against Macron’s fuel tax hikes, but have mined a vein of deep dissatisfaction felt towards the 40-year-old’s liberal economic reforms, which many voters feel favour the wealthy and big business.

Authorities were caught off guard by Saturday’s escalation in violence overshadowing the spontaneous protest movement, dubbed the "yellow vests" because many participants were wearing the fluorescent safety jackets kept in all cars in France.

President Macron rushed to the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday after one of France’s most revered monuments was vandalised by rioters.

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Updated Date: Dec 02, 2018 18:34:46 IST

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