French PM Holds Talks After Violent Protests in Paris

PARIS (AP) -
Ambulance workers block the bridge leading to the National Assembly (in background), Monday, in Paris. On ambulance written: Angry ambulance workers. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is holding crisis talks Monday with representatives of major political parties in the wake of violent antigovernment protests that have rocked Paris.

More than 100 people were injured in the French capital and 412 have been arrested over the weekend during France’s worst urban riot in years, with dozens of cars torched.

President Emmanuel Macron, just back from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina, held an emergency meeting on security with Philippe on Sunday and the government hasn’t ruled out the possibility of imposing a state of emergency.

It was the third straight weekend of clashes in Paris. The protests began last month with motorists upset over a fuel tax hike and have grown to encompass a range of complaints that Macron’s government doesn’t care about the problems of ordinary people.

Philippe and Macron are facing criticism from rivals across the political spectrum over their handling of the crisis.

Socialist leader Olivier Faure urged Philippe to drop the tax hikes and to restore a wealth tax that was slashed by the centrist government.

“We want a change in the method,” Faure said.

Activists wearing fluorescent yellow high-visibility vests torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores, threw rocks at police and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with graffiti on Sunday. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, closing down dozens of streets and subway stations to contain the riot.

More antigovernment protests took place on Monday as ambulance workers took to the streets and gathered close to the National Assembly in downtown Paris to complain about changes to working conditions. Protesters set tires on fire and blocked traffic as an activist held a board reading “The State killed me” and others chanted “Macron Resign!”

The yellow vest movement is bringing together people from across the political spectrum complaining about economic inequalities and waning spending power.

Since the movement kicked off on Nov. 17, three people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes or accidents stemming from the protests. Over the past three weeks, protesters have been setting up road blockades across the country and their movement has garnered widespread public support despite the violence.

Protesters haven’t planned to stop their action and Philippe will try to defuse tensions this week. Philippe’s press office said in a statement that he will speak with representatives from the yellow vests on Tuesday and that members of the National Assembly will hold talks on the crisis later this week.