Protesters hold a banner reading "It's only the beginning" as they attend during a demonstration marking the first anniversary…
Protesters hold a banner reading "It's only the beginning" as they attend during a demonstration marking the first anniversary of the "yellow vest" movement on Nov. 16, 2019, in Nantes, western France.

Lisa  Bryant contributed to this report from Paris.

French police have arrested more than 250 demonstrators across the country during rallies marking the first anniversary of "yellow vest" protest movement. 

Officials say 173 people were arrested in Paris. 

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, however, told Europe 1 radio on Sunday that that there were few legitimate demonstrators among those who rioted in southeastern Paris Saturday for several hours. 

Protesters clash with French riot police during a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of the "yellow vests" movement in Nantes, France, Nov. 16, 2019.

He characterized them as "thugs, brutes who came to fight the security forces and prevent the emergency service from doing their work." 

Demonstrators torched several cars in Paris and threw rocks and bottles at police who fired back with tear gas and water cannons. 

The "yellow vest" protest movement, named after the fluorescent jackets the French keep in their cars, morphed well beyond its initial opposition to a planned fuel tax hike, to embrace a range of other issues, from action on climate change to support for working-class families.  

French President Emmanuel Macron responded to the demonstrations by launching a national citizens debate earlier this year, and he offered concessions like tax cuts and a minimum wage hike.