PARIS      -   French police used a water cannon and fired tear gas in Paris on Saturday to drive back protesters marking the first anniversary of anti-government “yellow vest” demonstrations. On the Place d’Italie in the south of the city, demonstrators, many clad in black and hiding their faces, vandalised an HSBC bank branch.

They set trash bins on fire and hurled cobblestones and bottles at riot police while building barricades. Two cars were overturned, a scooter and car were on fire and police responded with tear gas and a water cannon. Police said 33 people had been arrested.

Earlier, clashes broke out between demonstrators and police near the Porte de Champerret, close to the Arc de Triomphe, as protesters were preparing to march across town towards Gare d’Austerlitz.

Police also intervened to prevent a few hundred demonstrators from occupying the Paris ring road. The so-called yellow vest protests, named for the high-visibility jackets worn by demonstrators, erupted in November 2018 over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living. The demonstrations spiralled into a broader movement against President Emmanuel Macron and his economic reforms.

The protests lost strength in recent months, going from tens of thousands of participants to just a few thousand, but the movement’s leaders called for people to turn out on Saturday to mark the first anniversary. At its peak in late 2018, the movement grew to up to 300,000 people.

Protests have been banned near tourists spots such as the Eiffel Tower and 20 subway stations were closed on Saturday. The yellow vest movement was one of the toughest challenges to Macron’s presidency before it dwindled in the early summer.

It evolved from nationwide road blockades into a series of often-violent demonstrations that pitted rowdy protesters with police and ravaged Paris and other major cities in the country.