World

France’s yellow vest protests turn violent

By AAP Newswire

Rioters have set fire to a bank and ransacked stores on Paris' landmark shopping street in a new flare-up of violence as France's yellow vest protests entered a fourth month.

The protests are aimed at President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons as the protests turned violent again after weeks of relative calm during marches and declining numbers of participants.

A Banque Tarneaud branch spewed flames before firefighters arrived and rescued two people from the building, with 11 suffering minor injuries, the fire department said.

Rioters also set fire to an upmarket handbag store and two newsstands on the Champs Elysees avenue while scattered bonfires burned on the iconic thoroughfare.

Protesters lobbed cobblestones at riot police through clouds of tear gas in front of Paris' Arc de Triomphe monument, which was ransacked at the peak of the protests in December.

Police had arrested more than 150 protesters by late afternoon as demonstrators looted stores around the Champs Elysees and ransacked the high-end Fouquet's restaurant.

The canvas awning of the swanky brasserie, known in France as the place where conservative Nicolas Sarkozy celebrated his presidential election victory in 2007, was later set on fire.

Several hundred metres down the Champs Elysees, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told journalists the latest violence was "unacceptable" and all would be done to bring perpetrators to justice.

"We are dealing with several hundred, several thousand in some cases, highly determined people who are there to create disorder," he said.

The interior ministry estimated 10,000 people had participated in the protest in Paris, compared with 2800 the previous Saturday.

Elsewhere in France, protesters were estimated at 4500, compared with 4200 last week.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that although the protest was relatively small, there were more than 1500 "ultra violent" people out looking for trouble.

"They decided, perhaps as a swansong, to come attack - and I use their words - Paris," he said, adding more than 1400 police officers were mobilised.

"I've given instructions to the police this morning for great firmness so that nothing slips by."

A separate, peaceful march against climate change through central Paris drew as many 36,000 people, the interior ministry estimated.

Yellow vest protesters have promised to draw bigger numbers to mark the fourth month since the movement erupted in mid November, over since-scrapped fuel tax hikes and the high cost of living.

The revolt swelled into a broader movement against Macron and his reforms.

However, the weekly demonstrations, held every Saturday in Paris and other cities, have been generally getting smaller since December, when Paris saw some of the worst vandalism and looting in decades.

After the spike in violence, Macron offered a package of concessions worth more than 10 billion euros ($A16 billion) aimed at boosting the incomes of the poorest workers and pensioners.

His government ordered police to crack down on the protests in January, leading to complaints of police brutality.

The 41-year-old former investment banker also launched a series of national debates which are aimed at determining what policies people want the government to focus on.

Saturday's protests coincide with the end of the debates.