Eif­fel Tower, shops to close as fears of France protest vi­o­lence mount

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS, France (AFP) — Paris’ Eif­fel Tower will close to­mor­row over fears of fresh vi­o­lence dur­ing na­tion­wide protests against Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, as po­lice urged shops and restau­rants on the Champs-el­y­sees to shut their doors too.

Around a dozen mu­se­ums across the cap­i­tal have also said they will re­main closed to­mor­row after van­dal­ism and clashes be­tween pro­test­ers and po­lice last week rocked France.

The an­nounce­ments came as around 200 high schools across the coun­try re­mained blocked or dis­rupted by stu­dents protest­ing a raft of ed­u­ca­tion over­hauls, on a fourth day of ac­tion called to co­in­cide with the anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions.

An in­te­rior min­istry of­fi­cial told AFP ear­lier 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.

Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe told senators yes­ter­day that “ex­cep­tional mea­sures” would be taken to avoid the day­long street bat­tles seen last week­end, with 65,000 po­lice de­ployed across the coun­try.

Shops along the Champ­sel­y­sees as well as pop­u­lar shop­ping streets near the iconic av­enue were told to keep their doors closed, pro­tect ex­posed win­dows and re­move any out­door fur­ni­ture in­clud­ing ta­bles and chairs, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice no­tices seen by AFP.

The move is likely to cost busi­nesses thou­sands of eu­ros in lost rev­enue as tourists and lo­cals alike stay clear dur­ing a sec­ond hol­i­day week­end in a row.

The Eif­fel Tower said it would stay shut Satur­day, and both the Gar­nier and Bastille opera houses have can­celled per­for­mances sched­uled for Satur­day.

Shops are also ex­pected to close in other cities, with of­fi­cials in Bordeaux, south­west France, al­ready warn­ing that mu­se­ums, li­braries and the­atres will re­main shut.

A Paris Saint-ger­main foot­ball game against Mont­pel­lier sched­uled for Satur­day has also been post­poned after a re­quest by Paris po­lice, and some schools near the Champs-el­y­sees have called off Satur­day classes.

Two of Paris’s main at­trac­tions, the Lou­vre and Or­say mu­se­ums, are still weigh­ing whether or not to close.

The “yel­low vest” protests be­gan on Novem­ber 17 in op­po­si­tion to ris­ing fuel taxes, but they have since bal­looned into a broad chal­lenge to Macron’s pro-busi­ness agenda and style of gov­ern­ing.

The gov­ern­ment an­nounced Wed­nes­day it would can­cel planned in­creases in fuel tax due to take ef­fect in Jan­uary in a bid to ap­pease the mostly low-in­come pro­test­ers from small-town and ru­ral France.

But the con­ces­sion failed to quell the anger be­hind a move­ment which has re­tained broad pub­lic sup­port, with an opin­ion poll this week show­ing 72 per cent backed the protests de­spite last week­end’s vi­o­lence.

The “yel­low vests” have also spurred other protests, in par­tic­u­lar stu­dents de­mand­ing an end to test­ing over­hauls and stricter univer­sity en­trance re­quire­ments.

Dozens of peo­ple wear­ing face masks threw Molo­tov cock­tails, torched rub­bish bins and clashed with po­lice out­side schools in sev­eral cities yes­ter­day ahead of a call for na­tion­wide demon­stra­tions to­day.

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

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

Mean­while yel­low-vest block­ades at fuel de­pots have caused short­ages in Brit­tany, Nor­mandy, and south-east re­gions of France.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers from across the spec­trum have ap­pealed for calm, after four peo­ple died in ac­ci­dents dur­ing protests and hun­dreds have been in­jured.

Yes­ter­day a yel­low-vest rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ben­jamin Cauchy, called on Macron to meet a del­e­ga­tion of pro­test­ers Fri­day to help defuse a sit­u­a­tion that he said had brought the coun­try “to the brink of in­sur­rec­tion and civil war”.

“We’re ask­ing him to meet us to ne­go­ti­ate on spend­ing power, which is what un­der­pins all this anger,” Cauchy told AFP.

Macron, whose ap­proval rat­ings are down to just 23 per cent, has not com­mented pub­licly since Satur­day on the deep­est cri­sis of his pres­i­dency so far.

But mem­bers of his gov­ern­ment have sig­nalled they are ready to make fur­ther con­ces­sions to avoid new vi­o­lence after the U-turn on fuel tax in­creases.

But Macron’s of­fice said he told min­is­ters he would stick to his de­ci­sion to cut a “for­tune tax” on high earn­ers, which the for­mer in­vest­ment banker abol­ished last year.

Restor­ing the wealth tax has be­come one of the core de­mands of the “yel­low vests”, along­side the fuel tax roll­back and an in­crease in the min­i­mum wage.

(Photo: AFP)

Demon­stra­tors gather as tear gas fills the air dur­ing a protest of Yel­low vests (Gilets jaunes) against ris­ing oil prices and liv­ing costs on the Champs El­y­sees, near the Eif­fel Tours, in Paris, on De­cem­ber 1, 2018.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Jamaica

© PressReader. All rights reserved.