Paris, France – Two days after a violent protest that rocked Paris into chaos, scenes of destruction are still present in the streets adjacent to the famous Champs Elysees.
The riots started during protests against government plans to increase taxes on fuel, but the demonstrations later morphed into a movement that rallied against a whole range of government measures.
Workers were doing their best to bring the area of downtown Paris back to normal life after more than 240 fires were set on Saturday, including six buildings and more than a 100 cars. But there was still much work to be done; it is impossible for anyone visiting the impacted neighbourhoods not to witness what happened. Graffiti with slogans against French President Emmanuel Macron are mixed with the Christmas decorations on what is considered to be one of the most beautiful avenues in the world.
The damage at the Arc de Triomphe, visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, has forced authorities to close the monument while it is being repaired, making those who visit Paris to make do with just a selfie in front of the arc while police forces protect its entrance.
“I came here two days ago to visit the city, which was one of my dreams. I was really scared when I arrived and today I feel sad when I see all the destruction in the area and that I cannot visit the Arc. But Paris is still Paris, for me, it is the most beautiful city in the world,” said Li, a Chinese tourist who came with his family to visit Paris for the first time.
While the cost of the damage is still to be determined, business owners are discouraged by the new wave of violence that has shaken the area and what the next protests, already being announced, could bring.
“I have lost several thousand Euros during last Saturday. My windows are smashed, and all the exterior is filled with graffiti,” said a shop owner who prefered to keep her identity hidden for fear of retribution. “I support the fight of the ‘yellow vests’, but I cannot understand this reaction to our business. I am just a worker who invested a lot of money and if this continues I am afraid I will lose everything,” she concluded.
Paris breathes an air of revolution these days. On Monday, more than 100 ambulances occupied Place de La Concorde, demanding a suspension in sanitary transport reforms which, according to them, would threaten small and medium companies in the sector. At the same time, students from over one 100 high schools also protested, in support of the “yellow vests” and in protest of educational reforms.
More protests are announced for this week. “Act 4” of the “yellow vests” has already been announced on social media for Saturday, and if nothing changes, many fear that it will bring an even more violent participation by the hardline groups who are taking over the protests in Paris.
“I don’t understand why they are destroying small businesses. I support them and I am one of them, but I do not support them impacting normal people’s lives. If they want destruction, they can do it to the five stars hotels, to the luxury shops, even to the Elysée, they have the money, and they are responsible for all that is happening, not us. We, the French, know how to protest, and this is just the beginning of a revolution that will change this country forever. I cannot wait for Saturday to come,” said Jean, a passer-by.