Paris braces for
Capital shuts up shop as more protests loom
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