Police arrested almost 240 protesters as rioters looted stores around the Champs Elysees and wrecked the high-end Fouquet's restaurant.
A restaurant on fire during clashes between riot police and "gilets jaunes" on the Champs-Elysees, Paris on 16 March.
French yellow vest protesters set life-threatening fires, smashed up luxury stores and clashed with police Saturday in the 18th straight weekend of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron. Large plumes of smoke rose above the rioting on Paris' landmark Champs-Elysees avenue, and a mother and her child were just barely saved from a building blaze.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon as the protests turned violent after weeks of relative calm, during which marches had attracted declining numbers of participants.
One risky blaze targeted a bank on the ground floor of a seven-story residential building. Firefighters had to rescue a mother and her child as the fire threatened to engulf their floor.
The resurgent violence comes at a watershed moment for a movement, which had been fizzling in recent weeks, and at the end of a two-month-long national debate called by Macron that protesters say failed to answer their demands for economic justice.
He said the protests still remained small compared with the early days of the movement, with an estimated 8000 people on the streets on Saturday.
How did the violence start?
Yellow Jackets threw smoke bombs and other objects at police, Fox News reported. Two newspaper kiosks were also set ablaze by the protestors.
The protest is one of several planned in Paris on Saturday, where French climate campaigners are also planning a "March of The Century".
Demonstrators also targeted symbols of the luxury industry, as shops including brands Hugo Boss and Lacoste were smashed up and pillaged, and mannequins thrown out of the broken windows.
Tensions flared at the top of the famed avenue where upmarket restaurant Fouquet's, which is often frequented by celebrities and politicians, was set alight and vandalised.
The flames pouring out of the posh eatery Fouquet's on the Champs-Elysées marked one of the most powerful images on a day of unusual unrest in the French capital.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said thugs looking for trouble had infiltrated the demonstrations and gave the order to respond to "unacceptable attacks with the greatest firmness".
Saturday's turnout is a test for the "yellow vest" movement, which began in November over fuel tax hikes and quickly ballooned into a anti-government rebellion but has struggled lately to mobilise large numbers of protesters.
Lawyer and yellow vest protester Francois Boulo said: "Those who participated in this great debate are mostly retirees and upper middle class, meaning Macron's electorate, even though we understood this great national debate was supposed to respond to the yellow vest crisis".
Named after the high-visibility vests French drivers have to keep in their cars and worn by protesters, the revolt swelled into a broader movement against Macron, his reforms and elitism.
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