French President Emmanuel Macron called for “order” on Sunday after a sixth weekend of “yellow vest” anti-government protests marked by dwindling participation and a violent attack on police in Paris.
Speaking during a visit to the central African state of Chad where he was visiting French troops serving in a counter-terrorism force Macron said: “There must be order now, calm and harmony. Our country needs it.”
“It needs harmony, unity, sincere commitment to strong collective causes and we must heal the divisions,” said the 41-year-old centrist, who has struggled to tamp down the anger of the working poor in smalltown and rural France over falling spending power and policies seen as tilted towards the rich.
A total of 38,600 people took part in a sixth round of nationwide protests on Saturday, according to the interior ministry — around half the number that demonstrated a week earlier.
In Paris, the scene of fierce clashes and widespread destruction in previous weeks, the protests were mainly peaceful.
But as evening fell, violence broke out again on the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue.
In one incident that caused widespread outrage, a group of three police officers on motorbike were forced to make a hasty escape after coming under attack near the Champs-Elysees from a group of demonstrators, who threw electric scooters, paving stones and other objects at them.
A video of the incident, which was widely shared on social media, showed one officer pulling his gun and pointing it at the advancing protesters.
He and his two colleagues — one of whom had his motorbike knocked to the ground — then made their getaway.
The video showed that, seconds before the attack, the police had lobbed stun grenades at a group of protesters, who were some distance away.
Speaking to BFMTV channel Macron said those responsible for the violence would face “the most severe” legal punishment.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe for his part denounced the “incredible violence tow.