Workers began cleaning up the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday after rioters ransacked stores and restaurants in a new flare-up of violence linked to the yellow vest protest movement.
Cutting short a weekend ski trip, President Emmanuel Macron returned to Paris late on Saturday for a crisis meeting with ministers at which he ordered decisions to be taken rapidly “so this doesn’t happen again”, Reuters reported.
Some 80 shops and businesses on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris were vandalised this weekend when “yellow vest” protesters went on the rampage, with about 20 looted or torched, retailers said on Sunday.
Vandals left hardly a storefront or cafe unscathed on Saturday, breaking windows and looting luxury stores as they clashed with riot police.
Saturday’s demonstrations were characterised by a sharp increase in violence after weeks of dwindling turnout, with hooded protesters looting and torching shops along the famed avenue, according to the Agence France-Presse.
It was the 18th consecutive weekend of demonstrations which began in mid-November as a protest against fuel price hikes but have since morphed into a potent anti-government movement.
“There was a wave of violence; we’re dealing with the aftermath of the chaos. We’re trying to reassure all the employees and then there are those who live here, too,” said Jean-Noel Reinhardt, head of the Committee Champs-Elysees, a local association with 180 members, most of them businesses.
He said residents and business owners were pushing for talks with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe “to share our exasperation and explain our complaints. “
“The authorities must put an end to this situation,” he insisted.
Since the beginning, the prestigious avenue, which is known for its shops, cafes and luxury boutiques, has been the focal point for the demonstrations which have often turned violent, sparking running battles between police and protesters.
On Saturday, the police appeared overrun as protesters swarmed the area, vandalising and later setting fire to Fouquet’s brasserie, a favourite hangout of the rich and famous for the past century — as well as luxury handbag store Longchamp.
Clothing outlets Hugo Boss, Lacoste and Celio were also damaged, as well as a bank, a chocolatier and several newsstands.
“Enough is enough. And this Saturday went too far!” raged Bernard Stalter, president of CMA France, a national network of chambers of trades and crafts.
He also demanded a meeting with top ministers “this week in order to find solutions which will put an end to a situation which has become as volatile as it is unacceptable.”