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Paris protests threaten French economy, finance minister warns

Paris protests threaten French economy, finance minister warns

Others removed the barriers protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, under the monument, to pose near its eternal flame and sing the national anthem.

Among the 133 people injured were 23 police officers as violence tore through the capital city.

The government has not ruled out imposing a state of emergency to combat the protests, which began over fuel taxes but have grown into wider anger over Macron's agenda.

Once again protesters have descended on the most famous boulevard in Paris - the Champ Elysees, with police using tear gas and water cannons Saturday on demonstrators who have breached security posts.

While several dozens were allowed into the avenue after an ID check and search, many others - some wearing gas masks or ski goggles - remained behind and fought police manning barricades and water cannons.

More than 100 people were injured in the city, including 23 members of the security forces, and almost 400 people were arrested, police said.

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French President Emmanuel Macron held an emergency meeting with top officials on Sunday just hours after returning from the G20 summit in Argentina.

The president and his ministers must now decide what action to take in response to a turn of events that in its drama and violence has shocked the country. The grassroots protests began with motorists upset over a fuel tax hike, but now involve a broad range of demands related to France's high cost of living.

Yellow Vests, or Gilets Jaunes, have been protesting on the streets of Paris and the rest of France every weekend for the past three weeks against President Emmanuel Macron's climate-change inspired fuel tax hikes and against the cost of living.

Another building was set on fire on a major avenue near the Arc de Triomphe and protesters stole an assault rifle from a police vehicle in the centre of the city.

"Of all the things that happened, the arson attacks, the attacks on the police, the attacks on the shops in the Champs Elysees, it is the Arc de Triomphe and the graffiti that was pasted over it, that is the biggest offence, as far as the administration is concerned", he said.

The scene in Paris contrasted sharply with protests elsewhere in France that were mostly peaceful.

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He said: "There's a lot of incitement on social media and we are expecting excess and violence".

Denis Jacob, secretary general of the Alternative Police union said: "We're anxious that small groups of rioters that aren't yellow vests will infiltrate [Saturday's demonstration] to fight security forces and challenge the authority of the state".

Enraged protesters in France have objected rising taxes in the country and Macron's leadership, which led to the arrest of at least 107 demonstrators.

Although police managed to clear the square around the Arc de Triomphe toward midday, cat-and-mouse skirmishes continued as protesters spread out to nearby streets and neighbourhoods. Police fired tear gas and some protesters set fire to cars and trees, threw cobble stones, and looted some stores and restaurants.

Laurent Wauquiez, head of center-right Les Republicains party, urged Macron to hold a referendum to end the crisis, although he didn't say what its topic should be.

The Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores in central Paris closed their doors amid the violence, two spokeswomen told Reuters, while firemen were seen putting out a blaze at a building near the Champs-Elysees.

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Speaking on BFM TV late on Saturday, Castaner said the authorities had put all security measures in place to forestall disturbances, but that they had faced extremely violent, organized and determined groups.