France fears more vi­o­lence

Weekend Herald - - World -

Au­thor­i­ties across France are braced for the pos­si­bil­ity of more ri­ots and vi­o­lence at anti-govern­ment protests this week­end.

They have held emer­gency meet­ings and de­ployed tens of thou­sands of po­lice and se­cu­rity forces. Mu­se­ums, the­atres and shops in Paris an­nounced they would close to­day and overnight as a pre­cau­tion. The Eif­fel Tower will also be closed.

Po­lice unions and city au­thor­i­ties met to strate­gise on how to han­dle the protests, which are be­ing held even though French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron on Thurs­day sur­ren­dered and can­celled a fuel tax rise that had un­leashed weeks of un­rest.

On the other side of France’s volatile so­cial de­bate, dis­parate groups of pro­test­ers did the same thing, shar­ing their week­end plans on so­cial net­works and chat groups.

Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe said yes­ter­day that the Govern­ment would de­ploy “ex­cep­tional” se­cu­rity mea­sures for the protests in Paris and else­where, with ad­di­tional new forces. Philippe said 89,000 po­lice of­fi­cers would be de­ployed on across France — up from 65,000 last week­end.

In Paris alone, 8000 po­lice of­fi­cers will be mo­bilised. They will be equipped with a dozen ar­moured ve­hi­cles — a first in a French ur­ban area since 2005.

Some “yel­low vest” pro­test­ers, French union of­fi­cials and prom­i­nent politi­cians across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum called for calm yes­ter­day after the worst ri­ot­ing in Paris in decades last week­end.

Macron agreed to aban­don the fuel tax rise, part of his plans to com­bat global warm­ing, but pro­test­ers’ de­mands have now ex­panded to other is­sues hurt­ing French work­ers, re­tirees and stu­dents. And in a move ques­tioned by both crit­ics and sup­port­ers, the Pres­i­dent him­self has dis­ap­peared from pub­lic view.

The Prime Min­is­ter re­it­er­ated the Govern­ment’s plan to scrap a fuel tax rise planned by the pre­vi­ous Govern­ment be­cause of the “ex­treme ten­sions” France is fac­ing.

“No tax de­serves to put civil peace in dan­ger,” Philippe said.

The Eif­fel Tower, along with more than a dozen mu­se­ums, two the­atres and other cul­tural sites in Paris, will be closed for se­cu­rity rea­sons. The Paris Opera has can­celled planned per­for­mances. Two mu­sic fes­ti­vals in Paris have been post­poned and the Arc de Tri­om­phe re­mains closed since it was dam­aged in last week­end’s protest, which left over 130 peo­ple in­jured. Paris po­lice have also urged shops in the city’s high-end Champs-El­y­sees area to close Satur­day as a pre­cau­tion.

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