Paris braces for

Cap­i­tal shuts up shop as more protests loom

Herald Sun - - WORLD - Po­lice clash with a pro­tester in Toulouse (above). Street vi­o­lence con­tin­ued else­where in south­ern France in Mar­seille as pro­test­ers over­turned a ve­hi­cle (right). Pic­tures: AFP

THE Eiffel Tower, the Lou­vre, and scores of shops on the Champs-El­y­sees were to close this week­end as au­thor­i­ties warned of fresh vi­o­lence by pro­test­ers an­gry over ris­ing liv­ing costs they blame on taxes.

The protests, which have in­volved ri­ot­ing and loot­ing, burn­ing of cars, and run­ning street bat­tles with po­lice, have now bal­looned into the big­gest cri­sis of Em­manuel Macron’s pres­i­dency.

An in­te­rior min­istry of­fi­cial said au­thor­i­ties were brac­ing for “sig­nif­i­cant vi­o­lence” at the week­end, based on in­di­ca­tions that pro­test­ers on both the far­Right and far-Left planned to con­verge on the cap­i­tal.

Of­fi­cials fear they could be joined by hooli­gans set on ri­ot­ing and loot­ing, as is widely thought to have been the case last week­end.

Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe said 8000 po­lice would be de­ployed in Paris along­side a dozen ar­moured ve­hi­cles, which have not been used in ur­ban ar­eas since sub­ur­ban youth ri­ots in 2005.

The “ex­cep­tional” crowd­con­trol mea­sures were to con­tain the risk of vi­o­lence, Mr Philippe said, re­it­er­at­ing an ap­peal for calm.

In a prime-time TV in­ter­view, he said the gov­ern­ment was ready to con­sider “any mea­sure which would al­low us to boost spend­ing power”.

Across the coun­try, 89,000 po­lice were to be mo­bilised, up from 65,000 last week­end, when the coun­try was rocked by day-long scenes of ur­ban un­rest in Paris.

But while the gov­ern­ment has re­versed plans for a fuel tax hike in Jan­uary — part of a plan to com­bat global warm­ing, — as de­manded by the pro­test­ers, the so-called “yel­low vest” move­ment shows no signs of los­ing steam.

Po­lice ad­vised shops and busi­nesses along and near the fa­mous Champs-El­y­sees to keep their doors closed, pro­tect ex­posed win­dows and re­move out­door fur­ni­ture.

The move is likely to cost thou­sands of eu­ros in lost rev­enue as tourists and lo­cals stay away for a se­cond hol­i­day week­end in a row.

Both the Garnier and Bastille opera houses have can­celled per­for­mances on Satur­day, and the doors of ma­jor mu­se­ums will be shut.

Six Ligue 1 foot­ball games, one in­volv­ing Paris Saint-Ger­main, sched­uled for Satur­day, have been post­poned.

The “yel­low vest” protests be­gan on Novem­ber 17 in op­po­si­tion to ris­ing fuel taxes.

But they have since ex­panded into a broad chal­lenge to Mr Macron’s pro-busi­ness agenda and style of gov­ern­ing.

The pro­test­ers, mainly from small-town and ru­ral France, have broad pub­lic sup­port.

An opin­ion poll this week showed 72 per cent backed the de­mon­stra­tions, de­spite last week­end’s vi­o­lence.

The move­ment has spurred other protests, in par­tic­u­lar by stu­dents de­mand­ing an end to over­hauls of test­ing and the in­tro­duc­tion of stricter uni­ver­sity en­trance re­quire­ments.

Nearly 280 high schools were dis­rupted in na­tion­wide protests on Thurs­day. More than 700 stu­dents were de­tained by po­lice, an in­te­rior min­istry source said.

Dozens of peo­ple wear­ing face masks threw Molo­tov cock­tails, torched rub­bish bins and clashed with po­lice out­side schools in sev­eral cities.

“We’re the ones who are go­ing to even­tu­ally have to pay higher fuel prices,” said Ines, one of around 150 high school pupil demon­stra­tors in Cachan, a south­ern Paris sub­urb.

Farm­ers have also called for de­mon­stra­tions every day next week. And two truck driver unions plan to launch an in­def­i­nite strike in sym­pa­thy, from Sun­day night.

Mean­while, yel­low-vest block­ades at fuel de­pots have caused short­ages in Brit­tany, Nor­mandy, and south­east­ern re­gions.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers from across the spec­trum have ap­pealed for calm, af­ter four peo­ple died in ac­ci­dents that oc­curred dur­ing the protests. Hun­dreds have also been in­jured.

On Thurs­day, a yel­low-vest rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ben­jamin Cauchy, called on Mr Macron to meet a del­e­ga­tion of pro­test­ers to help defuse a sit­u­a­tion which he said had brought the coun­try “to the brink of in­sur­rec­tion and civil war”. “We’re ask­ing him to meet us to

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