French police defend actions after clashes with protesters

Riot police officers are seen on the Champs Elysees avenue with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, during a demonstration, in Paris Saturday, Dec.

Riot police officers are seen on the Champs Elysees avenue with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, during a demonstration, in Paris Saturday, Dec.

A demonstrator wearing a yellow vest is blasted with a police water canon on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. France's yell

A demonstrator wearing a yellow vest is blasted with a police water canon on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. France's yell

Riot police officers take position on the Champs Elysees Avenue during a yellow vests demonstration in Paris Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. France's yellow

Riot police officers take position on the Champs Elysees Avenue during a yellow vests demonstration in Paris Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. France's yellow

Employees of the brand Louis Vuitton watch a Yellow Vests demonstration on the Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. France's yellow

Employees of the brand Louis Vuitton watch a Yellow Vests demonstration on the Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. France's yellow

PARIS (AP) — French authorities are defending police actions to contain protest violence after a policeman was seen briefly brandishing a gun at a surging crowd in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for "the most severe" legal repercussions against violent protesters. Speaking during a visit to Chad, Macro called for "order, calm and unity."

The numbers of protesters were sharply down Saturday on the sixth weekend of actions by the yellow vest movement, but violence again erupted in Paris.

A video of the gun-wielding policeman surrounded by protesters circulated online. He did not fire, but the threat of lethal action shocked many.

Police union officials said Sunday the officer acted in self-defense. The interior minister praised the "professionalism and composure" of security forces and called for a national debate to addresses the protesters' economic concerns.