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Macron: It's time to restore order
President Emmanuel Macron has called for "order and calm" to be restored in France after more violent incidents marred a sixth weekend of Yellow Vest protests, just days before the Christmas break.
Speaking on a visit to Chad where he was visiting French troops serving in the Sahel region's anti-extremist Operation Barkhane, Macron said, "The time has come for order, calm and harmony. Our country needs it.
"It needs unity and sincere commitment to common goals. We have to ease the divisions."
Macron has struggled to appease the anger of the working poor in small town and rural France over dwindling spending power and policies seen as tilted towards the rich.
A total of 38,600 people took part in a sixth round of nationwide protests on Saturday, according to the interior ministry – around half the number that demonstrated a week earlier.
Police attacked on Champs-Elysées
Though protests in Paris were largely peaceful, violence broke out on the iconic Champs-Elysees avenue in the evening.
In one incident that caused widespread shock, a group of three police officers on motorbike were forced to make a hasty escape after coming under attack by a group, some wearing yellow vests, who threw electric scooters, paving stones and other objects at them.
"Shame on cop-bashers", say France's police after video of clashes goes viral
Respect pour ces #policiers qui ont eu un immense courage et du sang froid. Honte et condamnation totale de ces #casseurs de #flics dans ces mouvements #gilletJaunes. @CCastaner @NunezLaurent @DGPNEricMorvan @prefpolice pic.twitter.com/5dmH2LH5JMCommissaires Police Nationale SCPN (@ScpnCommissaire) 22 décembre 2018
Macron has promised "the most severe" punishment for the offenders, while Prime Minister Edouard Philippe denounced the "incredible violence towards the police".
Rise of extremist elements
Two other incidents on Saturday were seen as evidence of growing radicalisation and the presence of extremists within the Yellow Vest movement.
Protesters at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris chanted a song by controversial comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has been convicted of anti-Semitic hate speech.
Others decapitated an effigy of Macron in France's western Charente.
"There can be no trivialising of such gestures" - French PM Edouard Philippe
Un simulacre de décapitation du chef de l’Etat… Des agressions d’une violence inouïe contre des policiers… Des gestes antisémites en plein Paris… Il est hors de question de banaliser de tels gestes qui doivent faire l’objet d’une condamnation unanime et de sanctions pénales.Edouard Philippe (@EPhilippePM) 23 décembre 2018
The number of demonstrators has been trending downwards since 282,000 people turned out for the first Saturday protest against planned fuel tax hikes on 17 November.
From there the protests quickly morphed into a full-scale revolt against Macron's policies, his perceived aloof, top-down governing style, and the political class as a whole.
Yellow Vest 'leader' faces charges
A total of 142 people were detained and 19 taken into police custody in the capital, including one of leaders of the movement, Eric Drouet.
A truck driver from the Parisian suburb of Melun, he was to be brought before an investigating magistrate Sunday to be charged with carrying an weapon in the form of a block of wood and "participating in a group formed to commit violence or destruction", according to the police.
He denies the charges.