PARIS was in lock down yesterday, as thousands of yellow vest – or gilet jaune – protestors filled city centre streets for the fourth weekend running.

Following the previous Saturday’s rioting, police responded with force, pushing back protestors as they tried to reach the French presidential palace with thick clouds of tear gas.

The National:

They also fired rubber bullets on the crowds and cleared streets with water cannons. By mid-afternoon it was confirmed that more than 500 protestors had been taken into custody. At least 55 people were injured, including three police officers.

Officer numbers were substantial with 8000 police officers and 12 armoured vehicles deployed in Paris, and nearly 90,000 officers deployed countrywide.

The “yellow vest” movement originally formed to oppose fuel tax hikes but ministers have claimed it has been hijacked by “ultra-violent” protesters.

The National:

Though fuel price rises were abandoned by the French government, protests continued due to frustrations over stagnant incomes and rising living costs as well as a range of related issues.

The yellow vests now represent a vast political spectrum of left and right wing groups and individuals including trade unionists and even the National Front.

The far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the left wing party La France Insoumise, have both called on Macron to dissolve parliament and hold elections.

In response Macron’s government had warned that the yellow vest protests had created a “monster” and the Paris actions would be hijacked by “radicalised and rebellious” crowds to become the most dangerous yet after three weeks of demonstrations.

Macron has been largely invisible in recent days, leaving his prime minister and government to try to negotiate with protesters.

Demonstrations are spreading and were held in several other cities yesterday including Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble, where a local leader of the yellow vests is reported to have been arrested.

Protests against climate change are also taking place in Paris and other locations across the country.

However the level of damage in central Paris was said to be less significant than last Saturday when it was claimed the anti-government demonstrations led to the worst violence in central Paris in a decade.

Last week violence left behind burnt-out carcasses of cars, scorched pavement, graffiti and the splatters of paint from paint bombs. Benches and traffic lights were ripped up and bits of paving stones hurled at police. Graffiti slogans defaced the iconic Arc de Triomphe.

Yesterday officers clamped down, frisking people and searching bags every hundred metres or so throughout central Paris, and even confiscated gas masks and protective goggles from Associated Press journalists.

The National:

Meanwhile the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum were among tourist attractions that remained closed, fearing damage after rioting and looting last Saturday that saw 130 people injured.

Many members of the protest movement are calling for calm, and some struck a conciliatory tone after meeting the prime minister on Friday night, in a last-minute bid to cool tempers.

But the movement has no clear leaders, and past protests have attracted extremists who hurled projectiles at police.

“According to the information we have, some radicalised and rebellious people will try to get mobilised,” interior minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference.

“I ask the yellow vests that want to bring about a peaceful message to not go with the violent people. We know that the violent people are only strong because they hide themselves within the yellow vests, which hampers the security forces.”

Mayor Anne Hidalgo urged those in Paris to take care. “It’s with an immense sadness that we’ll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority,” she added.

Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began on November 17. Christmas markets, national football matches and many other events have been cancelled or disrupted by the protests.

Protests were also held in Belgium with hundreds of yellow-vested protesters, calling for the resignation of Belgian prime minister Charles Michel, marched on the European quarter of Brussels.

About 400 protesters smashed street signs, chanted anti-Michel slogans and threw paving stones, fireworks, flares and other objects at police. Police retaliated with tear gas and water cannons.

In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters in high viability vests walked peacefully across the Erasmus Bridge singing and handing out flowers.