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French police use tear gas against protesters in central Paris

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Protesters in yellow vests hurl missiles during a protest in front of the Arc de Triomphe against rising oil prices and living costs in Paris, on Dec 1, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
Police fired tear gas canisters at “yellow vest” protesters in central Paris on Saturday during a demonstration against the high cost of living.

A police spokeswoman told reporters there were about 1,500 protesters on the Champs-Elysees and authorities said 127 people had been placed under arrest after police found weapons such as hammers, baseball bats and metal petanque balls on them.

Some 8,000 police were deployed in Paris to avoid a repeat of last Saturday’s mayhem, when rioters torched cars and looted shops off the Champs Elysees boulevard, and defaced the Arc de Triomphe monument with graffiti directed at President Emmanuel Macron.

Paris was on lockdown with major monuments and department stores shut. Shops, museums, metro stations and the Eiffel Tower were also closed, while top-flight football matches and music shows were cancelled.

The French capital experienced its worst riots in decades last weekend, in scenes that shook the country and plunged President Emmanuel Macron's government into its deepest crisis so far.

France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he expected "only a few thousand people" to descend on the capital after the 8,000 protesters counted last weekend, "but among them are ultra-violent individuals".

"These past three weeks have seen the birth of a monster that has escaped its creators," he said, adding that a "large-scale" security operation would be launched on Saturday.

He vowed "zero tolerance" towards those aiming to wreak further destruction and mayhem, after dozens of vehicles were torched, shops looted and the Arc de Triomphe war memorial was wrecked last Saturday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests, who have urged people not to join the protests.
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