PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron led a crisis meeting on Sunday after a day of riots in Paris by anti-government protesters left hundreds injured nationwide and widespread destruction around the capital.
Macron held emergency talks with the prime minister, interior minister and top security service officials at the presidential palace in Paris after flying in from the G20 summit in Argentina.
The government has not ruled out imposing a state of emergency.
Macron earlier assessed the damage at the Arc de Triomphe, the massive monument to France’s war dead at the top of the famous Champs Elysees avenue, where rioters scrawled graffiti and ransacked the ticketing and reception areas.
The president also saw the wreckage of burnt-out cars and debris from rioting at other sites, where he praised the police but was also booed by sections of the crowd. Paris police said 412 people were arrested on Saturday during the worst clashes for years in the capital and 378 remained in custody.
A total of 263 people were injured nationwide, with 133 injured in the capital, including 23 members of the security forces who battled rioters for most of the day in famous parts of the city.
“I will never accept violence,” Macron told a news conference in Buenos Aires before flying home.
“No cause justifies that authorities are attacked, that businesses are plundered, that passers-by or journalists are threatened or that the Arc du Triomphe is defiled,” he said.
Overnight a motorist died after crashing a van into traffic which had built up due to a “yellow vest” demonstration in Arles, southern France, a local prosecutor said Sunday. Three people have now died in incidents linked to the protests.
The so-called “yellow vest” anti-government protests that have swept France over the last fortnight were sparked initially by a rise in taxes on diesel.
In a separate incident, arsonists torched a motorway toll booth in southern France near the city of Narbonne, a judicial source told AFP Sunday. Five people were taken into custody, a prosecutor said.
The main north-south motorway in eastern France, the A6, was also blocked by protesters near the city of Lyon on Sunday morning, its operator said.
The capital was calm, however, but as groups of workers moved around cleaning up the mess from the previous day, the scale of the destruction became clear. Around famous areas including the Champs-Elysees, the Louvre museum, the Opera and Place Vendome, smashed shop windows, broken glass and the occasional burned-out car were testament to the violence.
Dozens of cars were torched by the gangs of rioters, some of whom wore gas masks and ski goggles to lessen the effects of tear gas which was fired continually by police. One person was in a critical condition after protesters pulled down one of the huge iron gates of the Tuileries garden by the Louvre, crushing several people.
Nearly 190 fires were put out and six buildings were set alight, the interior ministry said.