Authorities warn violence could flare this weekend
Workers install security cameras on the Eiffel Tower in anticipation of renewed protests by so-called yellow vests in Paris on Friday
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum and scores of shops on the Champs-Elysees are set to close as authorities warned of fresh violence this weekend during protests which have ballooned into the biggest crisis of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.
The government is scrambling to stave off another Saturday of burned cars and running street battles with police by “yellow vest” protesters furious over rising costs of living they blame on high taxes.
An interior ministry official told AFP that authorities were bracing for “significant violence” on Saturday, based on indications that protesters on both the far right and far left are planning 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 8,000 police would be deployed in Paris alongside a dozen armored vehicles – not used in urban areas since suburban youth riots in 2005 – for crowd control as part of “exceptional” measures to contain the risk of violence.
He also reiterated his appeal for calm, saying that the government was ready to consider “any measure which would allow us to boost spending power.”
Across the country some 89,000 police will be mobilized, up from 65,000 last weekend, when the country was rocked by daylong scenes of urban unrest in Paris.
But so far the “yellow vest” movement shows no signs of losing steam, despite the government’s rollback of planned fuel tax hikes, one of the protesters’ core demands.
Shops and businesses along and near the famous Champs-Elysees were told to keep their doors closed, protect exposed windows and remove outdoor furniture, according to police notices seen by AFP.
The move is likely to cost thousands of euros in lost revenue as tourists and locals stay clear for a second holiday weekend in a row.
The “yellow vest” protests began on November 17 in opposition to rising fuel taxes, but they have since expanded into a broad challenge to Macron’s pro-business agenda and style of governing.