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Paris police chief fired following yellow vest riots on Champs-Elysées

About 5,000 police were deployed in the capital on Saturday to deal with the protests.

Yellow Vest acte XVIII - Paris Police attended the scene of the yellow vest protest in Paris Source: Boivin Samuel/ABACA via PA Images

THE TOP POLICE chief in Paris has been fired following another weekend of rioting in the capital during “yellow vest” protests.

About 5,000 police were deployed in the capital on Saturday, far outnumbering the several hundred rioters who caused havoc for more than seven hours on the famed Champs-Elysees.

This led to French President Emmanuel Macron cutting short his skiing holiday to meet top ministers to discuss the 18th consecutive Saturday of “yellow vest” demonstrations.

“The events of last Saturday, in particular on the Champs-Elysees, were unacceptable and the president asked the government to provide a response that was up to the needs of the situation,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a televised statement.

He criticised “inappropriate” instructions on the use of rubber bullets given to security forces.

Yellow Vest acte XVIII - Paris Yellow vest protestors hit French city streets again on Saturday for a 18th consecutive week of nationwide protest Source: Lafargue Raphael/ABACA via PA Images

Philippe also announced that the head of Paris police, Michel Delpuech (66), had been fired and that he would be replaced on Wednesday.

He added that French authorities would ban demonstrations on the Champs-Elysees and other areas of the country if hooligans were detected there.He also said fines would be increased from €38 to €135 for people attending unauthorised protests.

More than 100 businesses were damaged at the weekend in Paris, including dozens of luxury shops and restaurants on the Champs-Elysees.

Damages on The Champs Elysees After Yellow Vests Protests - Paris People walk in front of a damaged newspaper stand after a yellow vests demonstration Source: Sebadelha Julie/ABACA via PA Images

Reacting to Saturday’s events, Macron tweeted: “There are people today who try by all means… to damage the Republic by breaking, by destroying things at the risk of killing someone.” 

He said that “all those who were there were complicit in” the havoc spread across the Champs-Elysees.

Numbers down

Since the end of December, the number of “yellow vest” protesters has fallen.

However, every Saturday thousands would still take to the streets, including far-right and far-left groups as well as anarchists who are responsible for much of the violence.

Some have called for French police to be far more active in tackling the protestors. 

“You have to take responsibility and engage, with the possibility that people will get hurt,” a member of the Alliance police union said.

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Act 18th of Yellow Vests Protest - Paris A damaged shop on the Champs-Elysées following a weekend of riots Source: Pauletto Francois/Avenir Pictures/ABACA via PA Images

Although some protesters have been injured by the rubber bullets, so far nobody has been killed in clashes with police. Officials, however, say the risk would increase if officers charged the hostile crowds.

‘Less reactive’

Critics have said that after more than three months of weekly protests, the government now needed to drastically rethink its approach for stamping out the rioting.

Junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez admitted on RTL radio today that police “were less aggressive, less reactive than usual” over the weekend, promising a review of the instructions given to officers and their deployment.

While seen as too lax on Saturday, French authorities have been accused on other weekends of being too heavy-handed, highlighting the difficulty of managing the crisis for the government.

Act 18th of Yellow Vests Protest - Paris The scenes during the yellow vest protest in Paris over the weekend Source: Pauletto Francois/Avenir Pictures/ABACA via PA Images

The UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for a “full investigation” into the possible use of excessive force by French police during the protests in an address earlier this month.

Since the demonstrations began on 17 November, some 1,900 people have been hurt, including dozens who have suffered serious injuries from stun grenades or rubber bullets fired by police.

Includes reporting by © AFP 2019

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