France fears more violence
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.