Louvre, Eiffel Tower close in Paris amid mass, violent protests

Ivan Schwartz
December 9, 2018

But that didn't deter many people from trying to march on the presidential palace Saturday. "I'm not so bad off because I have a good salary, I have enough to live". The national gendarme service posted a video on Twitter of police tackling a protester and confiscating his risky material, which appeared to be primarily a tennis racket.

Across the country, as 89,000 police officers were said to be deployed, protests also cropped up on roads, congesting main transportation routes.

"We will do all we can so that today can be a day without violence, so that the dialogue that we started this week can continue in the best possible circumstances", Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on French television. At least three police officers were also hurt.

Last weekend's violence, in which 200 cars were torched and the Arc de Triomphe vandalised, shook France and plunged Macron's government into its deepest crisis so far.

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

Thirty-two people have been remanded in custody.

The government this week scrapped planned fuel tax hikes planned for January - one of the protesters' core demands - and announced a string of other measures created to help low-income families. Dozens of streets were closed to traffic, while the Eiffel Tower and museums such as the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou were shut.

Department stores were also closed due to the risk of looting on what would normally be a busy shopping weekend less than three weeks before Christmas.

The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid crowds", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens planning to visit Paris over the weekend to postpone their visit.

In a warning of impending violence, an MP for Macron's party, Benoit Potterie, received a bullet in the post on Friday with the words: "Next time it will be between your eyes".

French President Emmanuel Macron agreed late Wednesday to abandon the fuel tax hike that triggered the movement, but their anger at his government has not abated.

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"The troublemakers can only be effective when they disguise themselves as yellow vests".

In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters in the high-visibility vests walked peacefully across the Erasmus Bridge singing and handing flowers to passers-by.

The hardline CGT union, hoping to capitalise on the movement, has called for rail and metro strikes next Friday to demand immediate wage and pension increases.

After a month of protests inspired by a new fuel tax, there are fears the "yellow vest" movement has been infiltrated by radical and violent protesters.

But Macron's office has said he will stick to his decision to cut a "fortune tax" on high-earners, abolished past year in a bid to boost investment.

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

The climbdown on higher fuel taxes - which were meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marked a major departure for the centrist president.

Four people have died in accidents during the protests and political leaders have appealed for calm.

Workers hammered plywood over the windows of shops and businesses, making the plush Champs-Elysees neighborhood appear to be bracing for a hurricane.

Paris police asked dozens of shop and restaurant owners around the Champs Elysees and Bastille areas to close on Saturday and requested local authorities in 15 areas around the capital to remove anything in the streets that could be used as projectiles.

"It's with an huge sadness that we'll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority", Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

Other reports by GizPress

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