Thousands of Yellow Vest demonstrators returned to the streets for the ninth week of protests on Saturday.
Police deployed tear gas and water cannons in some cities after the French government pledged zero tolerance to violence.
80,000 security personnel have been stationed across France over the weekend.
RT reports: More than 84,000 people took part in the protests in Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg, and other cities, according to Interior Ministry data.
Around 8,000 demonstrators, both locals and those coming from other parts of the country, were rallying in the French capital. Some 5,000 riot police with special equipment and armored vehicles oversaw the protests.
Clashes eventually erupted at the iconic Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, with police using tear gas and water cannons to calm the angry crowds. In Paris alone, 156 people were arrested during the standoff, with most of them put in custody, the law enforcers said.
“We’ve come to Paris to make ourselves heard, and we wanted to see for ourselves at least once what’s going on here,” a man, who travelled to Paris from western France to attend the protest, told AFP.
Around 1,000 demonstrators also made their way to the hippodrome and caused a delay of races in the horseracing town of Chantilly, north of Paris.
UPDATE – The Yellow Vests protesters are now leaving the course, with the meeting at @fgchantilly still set to go ahead but only the first 4 races to be held.
Great effort from the staff to get the meeting back underway – There had originally been 9 races scheduled for today. pic.twitter.com/tS4HZqXtaH
— Sun Racing (@SunRacing) January 12, 2019
In Nimes, police deployed tear gas against protesters after a tense standoff in the downtown.
— ObjectifGard (@objectifgard) January 12, 2019
In Toulouse a barricade in the center of the city was set on fire.
— Frédéric RT France (@frederic_RTfr) January 12, 2019
17 people were also arrested during clashes in Bourges in central France, where the local authorities said that 5,000 were rallying.