Paris protests: Macron hails police operation as over 1,000 gilets jaunes demonstrators arrested

President thanks officers for their ‘courage’ following day of violence in cities across France

Armoured police vehicles meet with 'gilet jaunes' protesters and fire burns on Paris streets

President Emmanuel Macron has broken his silence over Saturday’s nationwide protests in France by paying tribute to the police.

The embattled leader thanked officers for their “professionalism and courage” on Twitter after 1,220 people were arrested when violence erupted at anti-government demonstrations in Paris and other cities, including Lyon, Marseilles and Bordeaux.

Mr Macron’s spokesperson revealed he will give a major speech early next week in an attempt to address the concerns of the “giles juanes” – or yellow vest – protesters.

France’s interior minister Christophe Castaner said police had managed to get the demonstrations “under control” despite widespread rioting. Mr Castaner said 135 people were injured, including 17 police officers.

The ministry estimated there were 10,000 demonstrating in Paris and around 125,000 protesters nationwide. Around 8,000 security officers were out on the streets of the capital, among the 89,000 officers in place across the country.

Tanks were deployed and water cannon used against the protesters. Police also used the tactic of “kettling” demonstrators in Paris, herding them into a small space and then, in some cases, firing rubber bullets at the crowd.

The Independent spoke to one young protester moments after he was shot in the leg by a rubber bullet. Brandon, 22, had to be treated by medics who were among the protesters.

A massive clean-up operation is now under way in the capital after fierce winds and rain overnight complicated efforts to sweep away tear gas canisters and other debris left in the wake of the demonstration.

Activists smashed store windows, set cars on fire and clashed with police, who shot tear gas throughout the day in the French capital.

Mr Macron remained silent as the demonstrations took place, as he has for the four weeks since the movement that started as a protest against a gas tax hike metamorphosed into a rebellion against eroding living standards.

The mayor of the city of Saint-Etienne, a town in southeast France hit by violence Saturday, castigated Macron for failing to speak out, saying it “feeds the resentment”.

“This silence becomes contempt for the nation,” said the mayor Gael Perdriau, of the opposition conservative party. “He has a direct responsibility in what is happening. He can’t remain closed up in the Elysee.”

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe appealed for “unity” and promised Mr Macron would address protesters’ concerns.

Protesters at Place de la Republique (Reuters)

“The dialogue has begun and it must continue,” he said. “The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue.”

All of the city’s top tourist attractions – including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum – shut down for the day, fearing the kind of damage that hit the Arc de Triomphe a week ago.

Christmas markets and soccer matches were cancelled. Subway stations in the city centre closed and the US embassy warned citizens to avoid all protest areas.

Additional reporting by agencies

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