Surreal footage has emerged of a bank going up in flames after France's Yellow Vests were back in full swing on Saturday following a brief lull at the end of President Macron's unsuccessful 'great debate' - during which thousands of town halls were conducted over a two-month period in the hopes of solving national issues through citizen debates.
But now protests turned to riots are quickly returning to being potentially deadly with a number of dramatic close calls on Saturday.
Violence broke out on the Champs-Elysees Paris, where Paris riot police clashed with protesters, using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd, but things got dangerous and nearly deadly for civilians living in the area, as the AP reports:
A bank has been set ablaze as French yellow vest protesters clash with police in Paris and firefighters had to rescue a mother and her child as the fire threatened to engulf their floor.
The mother and child reportedly barely escaped the massive flames raging out of control as they leaped higher into the residential space above.
The fire apparently started on the ground floor of a seven-story building where the bank is located, but quickly engulfed the entirety of the residential floors above.
Amazingly and fortunately, Paris firefighter officials said a total of 11 people sustained light burns and injuries in the blaze, including two firefighters.
#Update: Other video of #GiletsJaunes protestors set the bank on fire on the #ChampsÉlysées in #Paris. Situation is rapidly changing grim in #France. As protestors are taking a aggressive approach this time. pic.twitter.com/7MDZzDIaZ8— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) March 16, 2019
Florian Lointier, spokesman for Paris' firefighters, related the following details to the AP:
The fire in the bank, which was on the ground floor of a seven-story residential building near the Champs-Elysees Avenue, was later extinguished. Lointier said a mother and her child were saved from the flames on the second floor and other residents were safely evacuated.
In addition to the life-threatening fires, rioters targeted luxury corporate brands, smashing and pillaging stores such as Hugo Boss and Lacoste, as well as a posh eatery called Fouquet’s.
Some protesters attempted to erect barricades to block streets around Place Charles de Gaulle - prompting the police to respond in kind.
At least one vehicle had been set on fire according to AP as the demonstration turned into yet another riot, and the lootings began. Shop windows were mashed and furniture broken.
In December, Macron attempted to assuage angry protesters with 10 billion ($11.2 billion) in tax cuts and other benefits for low-wage pensioners.