France to consider state of emergency to prevent escalating protests
The French government is to consider imposing a state of emergency to prevent protests, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on Sunday, following the arrest of more than 400 people the day before when protests turned violent; the worst civil unrest in France in more than a decade.
When asked whether a state of emergency could be imposed, Griveaux replied: "Every options will be examined," Euronews reported.
This comes after a dozen cars were set on fire, buildings were torched, tear gas was fired and water cannons were deployed in the French capital on Saturday.
Two weeks of nationwide protests against fuel taxes and living costs by the "yellow vest" movement have shaken France to its foundations, with a defiant President Emmanuel Macron calling protesters "thugs".
Macron is due to hold an emergency meeting with the prime minister and interior minister later on Sunday to discuss the riots and how to begin a dialogue with the protest movement.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner will join President Emmanuel Macron for an emergency meeting later today upon the President's return from Argentina, where he was attending the G20 summit.
The planned meeting comes after he accused protesters of seeking chaos during a news conference at the G20 summit in Argentine’s Buenos Aires on Saturday.
“I will always respect debate and I will always listen to opposition but I will never accept violence,” Macron said.
“No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, that businesses are plundered, that passers-by or journalists are threatened, or that the Arc du Triomphe (monument) is defiled,” he added.
On Saturday, groups of young men with faces masked, some carrying metal bars and axes, protested on the streets of central Paris, setting a dozen vehicles ablaze and torching buildings.
Scores of people have been injured and more than 200 others been arrested in clashes between protesters and police in the capital, Paris, alone.
Protesters, who chanted for Macron to resign, also sat down under the Arc — a significant symbol of the French Republic — to sing the national anthem.
French officials said at least 75,000 people had turned out across France for the so-called "yellow vest" protests on Saturday.
It was the third weekend in which people staged protests against the government’s economic reforms resulting in fuel tax hikes. Previous protests had already ended with violence, with two people killed and over 600 injured. 209/204