Paris shops, mon­u­ments to close as fears of protest vi­o­lence mount

Manila Bulletin - - World News -

PARIS (AFP) - The Eif­fel Tower, the Lou­vre mu­seum and scores of shops on the Champs-El­y­sees are set to close as au­thor­i­ties warned Thurs­day 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 ar­moured 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 in a prime-time TV in­ter­view 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 mo­bilised, 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 for Jan­uary, 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.

Both the Garnier and Bastille opera houses have can­celled per­for­mances on Satur­day and the doors of ma­jor mu­se­ums will be shut.

Six Ligue 1 foot­ball games, one in­volv­ing Paris Saint-Ger­main, sched­uled for Satur­day have been post­poned.

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.

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