Yellow Vest Violence Erupts Again, Spreads To Libya; 137 Arrested

More clashes broke out on Saturday between Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protesters and French riot police during the 23rd straight week of protests across France. Police had arrested 137 protesters by 15:40 CEST (3:40 PM local time), according to Euro News.

Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP - Getty Images

Authorities warned that they expected the protests to be more violent following the catastrophic fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral on Monday. Some demonstrators took issue with the approximately 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) pledged so far to restore the landmark by some of the country's wealthiest families, including the owners of luxury groups LVMH and Kering, the Bettencourt family behind the L'Oreal beauty empire, and scores of companies such as BNP, Total, Société Générale and Sanofi, according to Euro News. 

Several demonstrators clearly alluded to the catastrophic fire at Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday, which prompted an outpouring of national sorrow and a rush by rich families and corporations to pledge around 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) for its reconstruction.

"Millions for Notre-Dame, what about for us, the poor?" read a sign worn by a demonstrator. "Everything for Notre-Dame, nothing for the miserables," read another sign that evoked Victor Hugo's well-known novel. -Reuters

The police siad that "violent groups have formed in the procession," and asked that nonviolent Yellow Vests "disassociate yourself from these groups, let law enforcement and emergency services intervene."

Talking to reporters on Friday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, said that intelligence services expected rioters to take to the streets in several cities including Toulouse, Montpellier and Bordeaux but "most particularly in Paris."

"The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame," Castaner added, criticising the "polemic" and "the most absurd conspiracy theories" that surfaced following the blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday. He also condemned calls made on social media to protest near the ravaged monument.

"The threat is serious and calls for a reinforced presence," he said. -Euro News

A security perimeter will remain around Notre-Dame until Monday, while some 60,000 police officers were deployed across the country. 

Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty Images

That said, the turnout on Saturday was sharply muted according to the interior ministry - with just 9,600 people demonstrating across France, 6,700 of which were in Paris. Last week saw 7,500 demonstrators - far less than the estimated 282,000 who turned out on Nov. 17, the first day of the protests. 

Yellow Vests rage in Tripoli

While Paris Yellow Vests marked Saturday with more fires and clashes with police, hundreds of their counterparts in Tripoli, Libya came out on Friday to protest an offensive military campaign by strongman Khalifa Haftar on the Libyan capital. - accusing France and Macron of backing him, according to TheLocal

"We are surprised by France's conduct in the face of the Tripoli attack," read one sign held by a demonstrator. 

Portraits of French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia were also carried by demonstrators or placed on the ground for people to trample them.

Haftar is seen by his allies -- Egypt and the United Arab Emirates -- as a bulwark against Islamists who have gained a foothold in Libya after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

"Other countries must stop interfering in Libyan affairs," Haifa Ferjani, a 23-year-old protester said.

"France says it is a friend but secretly backs those attacking our city and our homes," added the young woman. -TheLocal

On Friday, the French embassy in Libya tweeted in Arabic that Paris was "opposed to the attack" on Tripoli - urging a ceasefire between all parties and a peaceful negotiation. 

President Trump, meanwhile, has thrown his support behind Haftarspeaking by phone with him last week as the general and his Libyan National Army (LNA) as lay siege to the capital.

The White House statement said Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”

Khalifa Haftar, center, leader of the Libyan National Army, via AFP/Getty

Haftar  who solidified control of Eastern Libya  over the past two years and swept through the south in January, seeks to capture Tripoli and seize military control of the entire country, and has over the past weeks made inroads into the capital.