Yellow vest protesters sent an ultimatum this Saturday to French President Emmanuel Macron with a new demonstration that from daybreak involved looting and destruction as a way to show that the movement remains strong despite government promises.
"After today, at least for me, there will be no more demonstrations. There will be real action. We've shown that we know how to protest, but it hasn't worked and we haven't been listened to," one of the movement's leaders, Eric Drouet, said on social media.
This 18th demonstration is considered crucial because it completes four months of protests and takes place one day after the end of the Great National Debate promoted in January by Macron to help contain the social and political crisis unleashed in mid-November by the yellow vest movement.
"What the great debate has been is a great joke," EFE was told by Quentin, 30, who came to the capital from Nantes expressly to take part in the Paris demonstration
In all this time, he added, nothing has changed at a political level, but "people with ordinary differences have learned to understand each other and work in favor of a common struggle."
The so-called Citizens' Initiative Referendum (RIC) contains the main demands of the opposition, which also requests the dissolution of the National Assembly and the forming of a provisional one "until the system is reorganized."
This weekend the Police Prefecture of Paris mobilized 5,000 agents, more than were sent to deal with previous protests, in the awareness that this is a dangerous day and will coincide with another massive march against climate change.
The Arc de Triomphe was the epicenter of the disturbances in the capital, which the forces of order tried to contain with tear gas, and by 12:00 pm some 30 protesters had already been arrested.
"There's no doubt about it - they make a call for violence and here they are, sowing chaos in Paris. Specialists in rioting equipped with masks have infiltrated the marches. My words to the Police Prefecture: respond with the greatest determination to these unacceptable attacks," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter.
The demonstrators' goal was to head for the Champs-Elysees, but access to the presidential palace, like other places considered "sensitive," had been blocked.
Though it is not clear what form the protests will take after this Saturday's demonstration, protesters like Van-Thanh Nguyen, a French citizen of Vietnamese origin who has taken part in 16 of the 18 marches, said he will keep fighting "until things change."
"Macron is a puppet of the system," said the unemployed 60-year-old who had come to the capital from the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis.
Last Saturday the Interior Ministry put the number of protesters in all of France at 28,000, of whom some 3,000 were gathered in Paris, fewer than when the protests began last November.