French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Monday that France is hardening its stance on the unrest, in a speech he made after rioters torched motorbikes and set barricades ablaze on Paris’s upmarket Boulevard Saint-Germain, Reuters reported.
“We need to preserve the right to demonstrate in France and we must sanction those who break the law. That’s why the government favors updating the law in order to sanction those who do not respect this obligation to declare protests, those who take part in undeclared protests, those who arrive at protests with balaclavas” Philippe told TF1 television.
He noted that the government could use the current law against football hooligans, whereby individuals can be banned from stadiums, as a model for the upcoming legislation, which might be introduced as soon as February.
The wave of so-called yellow vest protests — named after the obligatory attribute of French drivers — started in mid-November. While the French government has scrapped its planned hike in diesel taxes, which had initially sparked the protests, the "yellow vests" have evolved into a broader movement against government policies and rising living costs. The latest rallies turned into a confrontation with the police on Saturday as protesters hurled missiles at riot police blocking bridges over the Seine, in an attempt to stop the movement from reaching the National Assembly.