Police fire water cannons and tear gas at yellow vest campaigners in ninth weekend of protests in Paris

Repeated scuffles broke out between French anti-government protesters and cops near the Arc de Triomphe monument on Saturday.

Thousands also marched through the Grands Boulevards shopping area close to where a major gas explosion in a bakery killed three people this morning.

Central Paris was in lockdown against another feared eruption of violence by radical elements in the "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) movement.

Bridges across the Seine river were closed and official buildings such as parliament and the Elysee presidential palace protected by police barriers.

Activists also gathered on and around Paris's famous Champs Elysees boulevard – many calling loudly for French President Emmanuel Macron to resign.

One banner read: "Macron, we are going to tear down your place!"

Witnesses said riot police unleashed water cannon and tear gas at the crowd, who are protesting against Macron's economic reforms, after being pelted with stones and paint.

The French Interior Ministry says about 32,000 people have turned out in yellow vest demonstrations across France, including 8,000 in Paris.

The ministry said more than 100 people have been arrested, including 82 who were in police custody.

There were also thousands of marchers in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulon in southern France as well as Strasbourg in the east and the central city of Bourges.

Bourges authorities said nearly 5,000 yellow vests stuck to the designated demonstration area but another 500 had pushed into the city centre that was off-limits for demonstrators.

Many businesses in Bourges had boarded themselves up to avoid damage from protesters and authorities had removed street furniture and building site materials that could be used for barricades.

In Strasbourg, up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the European Parliament building and later marched to the centre of the city on the Rhine river border with Germany.

Protesters set bins ablaze and police fired a few tear gas grenades, but no serious violence or looting was reported.

More than 80,000 police were on duty for the protests nationwide, including 5,000 in Paris.

The "yellow vests" take their name from the high-visibility jackets they wear at road barricades and on the street.

Their rage stems from a squeeze on household incomes and a belief that Macron, a former investment banker, is indifferent to their hardships.

Macron, often criticised for a monarchical manner, is to launch a national debate on January 15 to try to mollify the yellow vest protesters, whose unrest has shaken his administration.

The debate, to be held on the internet and in town halls, will focus on four themes – taxes, green energy, institutional reform and citizenship.

But aides to Macron have said changing the course of Macron's reforms aimed at liberalising the economy will be off limits.

Source: Read Full Article