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France cleans up Champs-Elysees after Yellow Vest rioting

The damaged window of a Longchamp shop is pictured on the Champs-Elysees after a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, March 16, 2019
Paris cleaned up one of the world's most glamorous avenues on Sunday, after rioting by yellow vest protesters, angry at President Emmanuel Macron, which stunned the nation.

Luxury stores, restaurants and banks on the Champs-Elysees assessed the damage on Sunday, March 17th, after they were ransacked or blackened by life-threatening fires. Tourists took pictures as shop owners tried to repair broken windows, and city workers scrubbed away graffiti, much of it targeting Macron, as reported by AP.

The renewed violence by a movement that had been fizzling out in recent weeks, was a wakeup call to a president seen as favouring the elite.

Macron promised a crackdown on troublemakers who he said "want to destroy the republic, at the risk of killing people." But he also tweeted that the rioting showed that his government needs to do more to address protesters' concerns.

He also cut short a weekend ski trip to meet Saturday night, March 16th, with security officials at the crisis centre overseeing the police response.

On the Champs-Elysees, an eerie calm replaced the hours-long chaos of the day before, on the street that Parisians call "the most beautiful avenue in the world."

No police were visible Sunday, March 17th, and traffic rolled down cobblestones that had been the scene of battles between rioters and police struggling to contain them.

In the midst of Saturday's violence, firefighters said that a mother and her child were barely saved from a building set ablaze, because it housed a bank on the ground floor. Smoke from fires set by protesters mingled with clouds of tear gas sprayed by police.

The protesters sought to revive their movement Saturday March 16th, by marking the end of a two-month-long national debate called by Macron, that protesters say failed to answer their demands for economic justice.

Police had been braced for an upsurge of violence, but appeared caught off guard by the speed and severity of Saturday March 16th’s unrest.

Authorities and some protesters blame what they call the bloc extremists, who come to demonstrations with the express goal of attacking police and damaging property. They dress in black, including masks and hoods to make it harder for police to identify them, and often target symbols of capitalism or globalization.

Overall, the interior ministry said that around 32,000 yellow vest protesters demonstrated nationwide Saturday, March 16th, including about 10,000 in Paris. That was up from last week, when about 26,000 people marched in France including 3,000 in Paris.

However, it was far from the 250,000 yellow vest demonstrators who protested in December — and a fraction of the 145,000 people who took part in peaceful climate marches Saturday March 16th around France, according to the ministry's figures.

The four-month-old yellow vest movement has tapped into widespread discontent with high taxes and diminishing living standards in working class provinces — and anger at Macron, seen as too friendly with the rich and powerful and out of touch with French concerns.

But the yellow vest movement has also lost support because of protest violence, internal divisions and to concessions by Macron's government. The remaining protesters appear to be increasingly extreme.