France’s prime minister has announced a ban on yellow vest protests along the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and in two other cities following riots on Saturday that left luxury stores ransacked and charred from arson fires.
Edouard Philippe said the ban will apply for an unspecified period in the areas that have been “the most impacted” in the cities of Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse, where repeated destruction has occurred since the protest movement began in November.
He also said Paris police chief Michel Delpuech will be replaced this week by prefect Didier Lallement.
Mr Philippe announced the measures following a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron and top security officials that sought to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s violence, in which rioters set life-threatening fires, ransacked luxury stores and attacked police around the Champs-Elysees.
Many of those high-end boutiques remained closed on Monday, some of them charred from arson fires set.
He acknowledged “dysfunction” in French police operations on Saturday, rejecting “inappropriate” orders given to security forces to use fewer rubber bullets following a controversy about the numerous injuries they hae caused at previous protests.
Mr Philippe also announced a shift in security strategy to allow police forces to have a greater initiative on the ground to take measures against rioters and disperse crowds.
He said police will use new tools, including drones and video surveillance, to help prevent violence and send rioters to trial.
“When a protest has been banned and its aim is to ransack and loot, all of those who take part it in and, in fact, protect looters, encourage them or glorify them online, are complicit and will have to face the consequences,” he said.
Mr Philippe promised “nothing will change” for other peaceful, authorised protests.
The surge in violence came as the four-month-old yellow vest movement, which is pressing for more economic justice, has been dwindling.
Images of the destruction on Saturday— including from a bank fire that engulfed a residential building and threatened the lives of a mother and child — could further erode public support.
The renewed attention energised some protesters, who took to social networks to call for new protests this Saturday to demand lower taxes and more support for workers.
The Finance Ministry held a meeting on Monday with groups representing small businesses, restaurants, hotels, insurance companies and banks to estimate the economic impact of the protests.
The Paris region’s Chamber of Commerce said 91 businesses suffered consequences from Saturday’s riot at the Champs-Elysees, 80% of which were severely damaged. It called for an “emergency plan” to support those shopkeepers and employees.