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Galeries Lafayette, Paris shopping centres hit by violent riots on anniversary of ‘yellow vest’ protest

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Published
today Nov 17, 2019
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This weekend, between 28,000 and 39,530 protesters took to the streets in various cities in France to mark the first anniversary of the ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations.

The ‘yellow vest’ movement was born on November 17 2018 in France as a protest against fuel taxation. To mark the date, several thousand people were expected to congregate in Paris, where the authorities feared they would be joined by “between 200 and 300 ‘yellow vest’ extremists and 100 to 200 far-left militants.”


A fire-fighter tackles a car blaze in place d'Italie, Paris, on November 16 2019, during the ‘yellow vest’ riots - AFP - Philippe Lopez



Paris had been the epicentre of widespread violence in the past but, on Saturday, the Champs-Elysées - in lock-down and off-limits to any demonstration - and large parts of the city were spared. However, the situation degenerated elsewhere in the French capital. Around mid-day, the place d’Italie area was the scene of clashes between violent protesters and police forces, and the Italie 2 shopping mall was damaged.

In the early evening, the Forum des Halles shopping centre was targeted by the protesters. Rubbish bins were set on fire and police forces were brought in to prevent demonstrators and rioters from entering the centre.

“Violent clashes took place around and inside the Westfield Forum des Halles shopping centre on Saturday November 16 from mid-afternoon to early evening, leading to the centre’s closure. Regrettably, some material damage was caused. The centre has reopened today [Sunday] at 11 am,” Forum des Halles told FashionNetwork.com, adding that “our shopping centre is a secure site. We are in constant contact with the authorities in order to adopt appropriate measures in case of new demonstrations today, and to ensure the safety of our customers and our retailers.”

FashionNetwork.com learned that the two shopping centres affected by the violence re-opened on Sunday morning, heavily patrolled by police forces and riot-control units. On Sunday afternoon however, a small number of protesters occupied the Galeries Lafayette department store’s flagship Parisian branch on boulevard Haussmann.

According to the French Ministry of the Interior, 28,000 people across France, of whom 4,700 in Paris alone, took part in the demonstrations. The last time a similar number of people had gathered was Saturday March 9, when 28,600 protesters took to the streets. The ‘yellow vest’ movement estimated that 39,530 people demonstrated on Saturday, according to Facebook page ‘Le Nombre Jaune’.

A year after the movement was born, and despite concessions by the French government on employment bonuses and tax exemptions on overtime, and the initiation of a major national debate, many of the demands put forward by this vast protest movement are still on the table, from lowering VAT on essential goods to a new solidarity tax on wealth and a citizens’ initiative referendum.

Since the start of the protests, the ‘yellow vest’ movement has gathered 282,000 demonstrators in France. With last week-end’s action it was trying to revive the ‘round-about revolts’ that weakened President Macron's mandate, but in recent months had only managed to mobilise a few thousand people.

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