Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
Economy | By

France braced for 'day of rage' protests

France braced for 'day of rage' protests

Crowds of yellow-vested protesters have tried to march on the French presidential palace, surrounded by huge numbers of police bracing for outbreaks of violence after the worst rioting in Paris in decades.

National police estimated the number of protesters in Paris on Saturday at 8,000, among 31,000 protesters nationwide.

Some 8,000 officers and 12 armoured vehicles have been deployed in Paris alone, and almost 90,000 in the country as a whole.

Early Saturday itself, 278 people were detained in Paris as the French capital braced for another weekend of violence during protests by the yellow vest anti-government movement. The Nicolas wine chain, one of France's biggest retailers, canceled all its wine tasting sessions scheduled for Saturday.

Mr Macron said his motivation for the increase was environmental, but protesters accused him of being out of touch.

The operators of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and Orsay museums said they would be closed, along with operas, theatres, libraries and major department stores. He said none of the students were injured.

After two weekends of violence in Paris that made the authorities look powerless, police went into overdrive Saturday to keep a lid on unrest.

Rows of riot police blocked the demonstrators' passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the heart of presidential power, firing tear gas and pushing them back with shields. Macron, whose popularity is at a low ebb according to polls, has been forced into making the first major U-turn of his presidency by abandoning a fuel tax.

Nigel Farage said the violent protests that have broken out across France are a sign of the growing disconnect between the country's citizens and its elites.

The drastic security measures will put central Paris in a lockdown on Saturday, disrupting the plans of tens of thousands of tourists and residents.

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"We can not take the risk when we know the threat", Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, adding that far-right and far-left agitators were planning to hijack rallies by "yellow vest" protesters in Paris.

"We have prepared a robust response", Interior Minister Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told online news site Brut on Saturday.

About 100 have been detained, many for possessing unsafe objects like fireworks or wearing clothing that could be used as protection in clashes with police. "We know that the violent people are only strong because they hide themselves within the yellow vests, which hampers the security forces". More than 500 of them remained in custody after police found they carried potential weapons such as hammers, baseball bats and metal balls used in the French lawn game petanque.

But the movement has no clear leaders, and past protests have attracted extremists who hurled projectiles at police.

Jan Dijkgraaf, editor of a Dutch "resistance newspaper" is calling for peaceful protests in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

"People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment".

The protests, named after the high-visibility safety vests French motorists are required to keep in their cars, erupted in November over the squeeze on household budgets caused by fuel taxes.

But the yellow vests, some of whom who have become increasingly radicalised, are holding out for more.

Others have made it personal and say Macron must resign, still fuming over his decision to cut taxes for the highest earners shortly after sweeping to the presidency past year.

The protesters began blocking roads, fuel depots and shopping centres around France on November 17 over soaring petrol prices that have hit people in the provinces who get around by auto.

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