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France to consider state of emergency to prevent riots from recurring

This article is more than 12 months old

President Macron holds crisis meeting after worst civil unrest in over a decade

PARIS: France will consider imposing a state of emergency to prevent a recurrence of some of the worst civil unrest in more than a decade and urged peaceful protesters to come to the negotiating table, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said yesterday.

Groups of young men with faces masked, some carrying metal bars and axes, rioted on the streets of central Paris on Saturday, setting a dozen vehicles ablaze and torching buildings.

"We have to think about the measures that can be taken so that these incidents don't happen again," Mr Griveaux told Europe 1 radio.

The authorities were caught off guard by the escalation in violence after two weeks of nationwide protests against fuel taxes and living costs, known as the "yellow vest" movement after fluorescent jackets kept in all vehicles in France.

President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to discuss the riots and how to begin a dialogue with the protest movement, which has no real structure or leadership.

When asked about imposing a state of emergency, Mr Griveaux said it would be among the options considered.

"It is out of the question that each weekend becomes a meeting or ritual for violence."

Protests began on Nov 17 and quickly grew, thanks to social media, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots.


The authorities said violent groups from the far right and far left as well as "thugs" from the suburbs had infiltrated the yellow vests movement in Paris on Saturday, although Mr Castaner said most of those arrested were regular protesters who had been egged on by fringe groups.

Speaking on BFM TV late on Saturday, Mr Castaner said the authorities had put all security measures in place to prevent the violence, but they had faced extremely violent, organised and determined groups.

He did however say the government had made a mistake in how it communicated its plans to move away from oil dependence, the policy that led to fuel tax hikes.

He and Mr Griveaux urged the yellow vest movement to organise itself and come to the negotiating table.

"We are ready to talk to them everywhere and the door is open to them," Mr Griveaux said. - REUTERS