French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister on Sunday to hold talks with political leaders and demonstrators, as he sought a way out of nationwide protests after rioters turned central Paris into a battle zone.
Masked, black-clad groups ran amok across central Paris on Saturday, torching cars and buildings, looting shops, smashing windows and fighting police in the worst unrest the capital has seen since 1968, posing the most formidable challenge Emmanuel Macron has faced in his 18-month-old presidency.
Disturbances also rocked several cities and towns and across France - from Charleville Mézières in the northeast to Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south.
"We have to think about the measures that can be taken so that these incidents don't happen again," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Europe 1 radio.
After a meeting with members of his government on Sunday, the French presidency said in a statement that the president had asked his interior minister to prepare security forces for future protests and his prime minister to hold talks with
political party leaders and representatives of the protesters.
A French presidential source said Macron would not speak to the nation on Sunday despite calls for him to offer immediate concessions to demonstrators, and said the idea of imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed.
The popular rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17 and has spread quickly via social media, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots.
The protests began as a backlash against Macron's fuel tax hikes, but have mined a vein of deep dissatisfaction felt towards the 40-year-old's liberal economic reforms, which many voters feel favour the wealthy and big business.
One motorist died overnight after colliding with traffic which had built up due to a protest near Arles in southern France, marking the third accidental death associated with the protests.
According to figures released by the French interior ministry, around 136,000 demonstrators took to the streets across France on Saturday. The headcount was significantly lower than for the first "Yellow Vest" protest, which drew roughly 300,000, and comparable to last week's which drew 106,000.
Authorities were caught off guard by Saturday's escalation in violence overshadowing the spontaneous protest movement, dubbed the "Yellow Vest" protest because many participants are wearing the fluorescent safety jackets kept in all cars in France.
In Paris, police said they had arrested more than 400 people while 133 were injured, including 23 members of the security forces. Police fired stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon at protesters at the top of the Champs-Elysées boulevard, at the Tuillèries Garden near the Louvre museum and other sites.
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