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135 injured in 'yellow vest' protests in France: minister

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-12-09 07:09

"Yellow Vests" protesters confront police near the Arch of Triumph in Paris, France, on Dec 8, 2018. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at "Yellow Vests" protesters marching in Paris on Saturday in the fourth week-end action despite President Emmanuel Macron's series of concessions. [Photo/Xinhua]

PARIS - A total of 135 people were injured and 1,385 had been detained on Saturday after violence broke out between police and gangs of masked youth in several French cities during protests against high living costs, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

In a joint press briefing with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Saturday evening, the minister added that 974 individuals remained in police custody, and that the figure could rise.

Some 10,000 demonstrators participated in Paris march, while 125,000 protesters turned out across the country. Among the injured were 17 police officers who were hurt in the scruffles mainly in the French capital and southwestern city of Bordeaux.

"Yellow Vests" protesters shout slogans near the Arch of Triumph in Paris, France, on Dec 8, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

"The situation is under control," Castaner said, adding... but totally unacceptable."

"Time for dialogue. This dialogue has begun, it must continue. The French nation must find itself. No tax can threaten national unity," said Prime Minister Philippe, noting that President Emmanuel Macron would propose further measures to abate the social anger.

After a calm start, tension flared in Les Grands Boulevards and streets near the Champs Elysees and the Republic Square where a group of hooded men joined the protest and hassled police by setting barricades and torching rubbish bins and trees.

Scores of vehicles had been torched and shops were smashed and looted, forcing police to fire tear gas and use water cannon to push back the rioters.

A protester confronts police near the Arch of Triumph in Paris, France, on Dec 8, 2018.  [Photo/Xinhua]

Armored vehicles were also deployed for the first time in the capital since Paris suburbs riot in 2005 amid intensified security measures that the government implemented to avoid the chaos two weeks ahead of the peak of Christmas holidays.

Violence was less severe than a week ago when a group of troublemakers looted and tarnished L'Arc de Triomphe, an emblematic monument and reminder of French soldiers' sacrifice as well as the countries's different victories since it was first inaugurated in 1836.

As part of an "exceptional" security plan, the government has poured 89,000 officers into French cities. In Paris alone, 8,000 officers have been put in place to ensure security of people and properties to avoid last Saturday's rioting that plunged the French capital into chaos, its worst unrest in decades.

They would be mobilized overnight and on Sunday "if necessary," said Castaner.

A protester kicks a tear shell near the Arch of Triumph in Paris, France, on Dec 8, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Created on social media, the "yellow vest" movement which got its name from the high visibility vests drivers keep in their cars, has lured people of all ages and backgrounds.

With no leader, it had turned into a bigger movement denouncing a squeeze on household spending, high living costs caused by Macron's fiscal and economic policy which they say favors the rich. Some even demanded Macron to step down.

Earlier this week, French government dropped a plan to increase fuel tax next year, bowing to the force of the streets. However, the protest movement shows no sign of abating. Protesters still demand concrete moves, notably a rise in minimum wage and lower taxes.

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