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March 22, 2019

Traders say 80 businesses hit in 'yellow vest' rampage

Traders say 80 businesses hit in 'yellow vest' rampage
'Some 80 shops and businesses were damaged along the Champs-Elysees on the 18th weekend of "yellow vest" demonstrations' - By: AFP Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT

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.

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.

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."

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