Paris braces for vi­o­lence

Cops put on high alert

Winnipeg Sun - - NEWS - SA­MUEL PE­TRE­QUIN The As­so­ci­ated Press

PARIS — France mo­bi­lized tens of thou­sands of po­lice of­fi­cers and made plans to shut down beloved tourist attractions like the Eif­fel Tower and the Lou­vre on the eve of anti-gov­ern­ment protests that au­thor­i­ties feared could be even more violent than ones that have crip­pled the coun­try for weeks.

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

Hun­dreds of shops in Paris planned to shut their doors as well, pre­fer­ring to lose busi­ness dur­ing the key hol­i­day shop­ping pe­riod rather than have their win­dows smashed in and their mer­chan­dise looted, as hap­pened to many Paris stores last Satur­day when an anti-gov­ern­ment protest over ris­ing taxes turned into a riot.

On Fri­day, work­ers across Paris lugged pieces of ply­wood and ham­mered boards over the win­dows of shops and busi­nesses — mak­ing the plush Champs-el­y­sees neigh­bour­hood ap­pear like it was brac­ing for a hur­ri­cane.

Some top French of­fi­cials said that de­scrip­tion was not far off.

“Ac­cord­ing to the in­for­ma­tion we have, some rad­i­cal­ized and re­bel­lious peo­ple will try to get mo­bi­lized to­mor­row,” In­te­rior Minister Christophe Cas­taner told a press con­fer­ence Fri­day. “Some ul­tra-violent peo­ple want to take part.”

Au­thor­i­ties say 8,000 po­lice will fan out across Paris, equipped with a dozen bar­ri­cade-bust­ing ar­moured ve­hi­cles that could be used for the first time in a French ur­ban area since the 2005 ri­ots.

“These ve­hi­cles can be very use­ful to pro­tect build­ings,” said Stanis­las Gaudon, head of the Al­liance po­lice union. “And in case they set up bar­ri­cades, we can quickly clear out the space and let our units progress.”

Paris po­lice, fear­ing that rad­i­cal pro­test­ers could turn street fur­ni­ture and con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als into makeshift weapons, on Fri­day were re­mov­ing all glass con­tain­ers, rail­ings and con­struc­tion ma­chines in high-risk ar­eas.

Those in­cluded the world-renowned Champs-el­y­sees, which would nor­mally be packed with tourists and shop­pers on a Satur­day in early De­cem­ber.

The Ni­co­las wine chain, one of the big­gest re­tail­ers in the coun­try, can­celled all its wine tast­ing ses­sions sched­uled for Satur­day.

“It’s with an im­mense sad­ness that we’ll see our city par­tially brought to a halt, but your safety is our pri­or­ity,” Paris Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo said. “Take care of Paris on Satur­day be­cause Paris be­longs to all the French peo­ple.”

Since the anti-gov­ern­ment un­rest be­gan on Nov. 17 in re­ac­tion to a sharp in­crease in diesel taxes, four peo­ple have been killed in protest-re­lated ac­ci­dents.

FRAN­COIS MORI/AP

Work­ers carry a wooden board to pro­tect shop win­dows on the Champs-el­y­sees yesterday.

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