Protesters remove a window protection fence from a shop on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on March 16, the 18th consecutive Saturday of demonstrations called by the “yellow vest” movement. Photo: AFP

The French government faced heavy criticism Sunday after black-clad anarchists went on an arson and looting rampage during a “yellow vest” demonstration on Saturday along the iconic Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Police were overwhelmed as demonstrators ran amok on the avenue, vandalizing about 80 shops and businesses.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe acknowledged Sunday that there had been security “flaws” that needed to be addressed.

“Analysis of yesterday’s events highlights that the measures taken were insufficient to contain the violence and prevent wrongdoing” by the rioters, the premier’s office said.

Philippe is to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday morning to discuss solutions.

Beleaguered Macron, who cut short a skiing trip to rush back to the capital for a crisis meeting late Saturday, has promised “strong decisions.”

“There’s been a surge of violence,” said Jean-Noel Reinhardt, head of the Committee Champs-Elysees, a local association with 180 members.

“The authorities must put an end to this situation,” he insisted Sunday.

The latest demonstrations were characterized by a sharp uptick in violence after weeks of dwindling turnout.

It was the 18th consecutive weekend of demonstrations which began in mid-November as a protest against fuel price hikes but then morphed into a potent anti-government movement.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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