French yellow vest protests met with huge security in Paris

Cornelia Mascio
Dicembre 8, 2018

Paris police detained almost 300 people Saturday ahead of fresh anti-government "yellow vest" protests which authorities fear could turn violent for a third weekend in a row.

Around 100 people were arrested on Saturday in the Belgian capital Brussels during copycat yellow vest demonstrations rocking neighbouring France, police said.

Authorities deployed barricade-busting armoured vehicles and 8,000 police in the capital alone.

President Emmanuel Macron's government has warned that the protests will be hijacked by "radicalised and rebellious" crowds and become the most risky yet, after three weeks of demonstrations.

Among the tourist attractions that were closed were the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum, fearing damage after rioting and looting last Saturday that saw 130 people injured. "Take care of Paris on Saturday because Paris belongs to all the French people".

One participant, Christophe Chalancon, told reporters the prime minister "listened to us".

Shops, museums, the Eiffel Tower and many metro stations were closed as much of the city-centre went on effective lockdown.

Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere says around 400 protesters are gathered in the area.

Police were earlier searching people throughout zones of central Paris and confiscating goggles and gas masks from journalists who use them to protect against tear gas while covering demonstrations.

Crowds had first tried to march down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the Elysee Palace, but were prevented by rows of police pushing back with shields.

Mr Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, but that has not defused the anger, embodied by the fluorescent safety vests French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

Protests and riots all over France.

President Trump meanwhile twisted the knife, tweeting Saturday morning: "The Paris Agreement isn't working out so well for Paris". On Friday, police arrested two other men in Montauban after finding a cache of 28 Molotov cocktails and three improvised explosive devices.

Coordinated "yellow vest" protests were taking place across the country on Saturday, including on numerous motorways, causing havoc on the national road network.

An expected 8,000 police officers will be dispatched in the capital to counteract the potential "small minority" who have been "radicalized and fallen into violence and hate", the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said at a press conference on Friday.

Some could be held in the city centre on what is a major Christmas shopping weekend.

Many protesters slammed the French media for portraying the protests as led by violent agitators and for siding with Macron's government.

About 100 have been detained, many for possessing risky objects like fireworks or wearing clothing that could be used as protection in clashes with police. Hundreds of protesters, including the movement's leader, were detained during the demonstrations.

"We are not here to destroy Paris, we are here to tell Macron we are f-king fed up", said one protester before the clashes with the police began, adding that the people are protesting ever-increasing taxes on the working class.

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

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 a year ago. Police removed any materials from the streets that could be used as weapons, especially at construction sites in high-risk areas.

Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began.

The yellow vests include people with views that range from the far right to the far left.

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