French President Emmanuel Macron has asked Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to meet with heads of political parties and representatives of the so-called “yellow vests” in an attempt to defuse tensions that erupted into violent protests over the weekend.
Around 36,000 people took part in protests across the country on Saturday, but while the turnout was lower than the previous two weekends, protesters clashed with police, torching cars, erecting roadblocks and burning barricades.
The unrest has transformed from dissent over rising gas prices and eco-taxes into a broader demonstration against Macron, his government, and tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.
Speaking on France’s Europe 1 radio Sunday, spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the government was considering “all options” to prevent “serious outbursts of violence,” including introducing a state of emergency.
Griveaux said that between 1,000 and 1,500 people joined Saturday’s demonstrations “only to fight with the police, to break and loot.” He added that those protesters “have nothing to do with the yellow vests.”
Yellow vests or “gilets jaunes” refers to the high visibility vests drivers in France are required to keep in their cars for safety reasons, should their cars break down.
Almost 400 people were arrested in Saturday’s riots.
As part of his response, Macron has asked the Ministry of the Interior to develop a policing plan to counter any further protests, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV. No date has yet been set for the meeting between Philippe and the yellow vests, BFMTV reported.