Lock­down in Paris

Cap­i­tal braces for wrath of pro­test­ers as dis­con­tent swells

Saturday Star - - WORLD -

THE Eif­fel Tower and the Lou­vre Mu­seum in Paris are closed to­day as French au­thor­i­ties tighten se­cu­rity to pre­vent an­other out­break of vi­o­lence af­ter three weeks of anti-gov­ern­ment protests.

And at the height of the fes­tive shop­ping sea­son, many re­tail­ers have said they would re­main shut for the day for fear they might be in the line of any un­rest be­tween pro­test­ers and po­lice.

In ad­di­tion to the 8 000 po­lice forces that have been sent to the French cap­i­tal city.

Fear­ing pro­test­ers could tar­get street fur­ni­ture and use ma­te­rial found at con­struc­tion sites as makeshift weapons, Paris po­lice re­moved glass con­tain­ers, rail­ings and build­ing ma­chines set up in the iden­ti­fied places which in­clude the world-renowned Champs-elysées av­enue.

Many shop owners across Paris are get­ting ready for the vi­o­lence, set­ting up walls with car­ton boards to pro­tect their win­dows. Mean­while, the Ni­co­las wine chain, one of the big­gest re­tail­ers in the coun­try, can­celled all its wine tast­ing ses­sions sched­uled for to­day.

Across the coun­try about 89 000 po­lice have been mo­bilised, up from 65 000 last week­end when more than 130 peo­ple were in­jured and over 400 were ar­rested in the worst street vi­o­lence seen in Paris in decades.

And au­thor­i­ties have also can­celled six French league soc­cer matches this week­end around the coun­try.

Since the un­rest be­gan on Novem­ber 17 in re­ac­tion to a sharp in­crease in diesel taxes, four peo­ple have been killed in ac­ci­dents.

The pro­test­ers are col­lec­tively re­ferred to as the “yel­low vests” (gilets jaunes) move­ment, in ref­er­ence to the flu­o­res­cent safety out­fit French mo­torists keep in their cars.

Amid the un­rest, some of the pro­test­ers, union of­fi­cials and prom­i­nent politi­cians have urged calm, es­pe­cially as French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron agreed to aban­don the fuel tax hike that trig­gered the protests.

How­ever, pro­test­ers’ de­mands have ex­panded to other is­sues hurt­ing French work­ers, re­tirees and stu­dents.

Stu­dents op­pos­ing an ed­u­ca­tion re­form protested again yesterday, a day af­ter footage widely shared on so­cial me­dia show­ing the ar­rest of high school pupils demon­strat­ing out­side Paris prompted an out­cry. Trade unions and far-left par­ties have lashed out at per­ceived po­lice bru­tal­ity.

The im­ages, filmed on Thurs­day at Mantes-la-jolie, showed a group of pupils on their knees with their hands be­hind their head. They are be­ing watched over by armed po­lice of­fi­cers whose faces are hid­den by ski masks.

In­te­rior Minister Christophe Cas­taner said 151 peo­ple were ar­rested in the small town, adding that some of them car­ried weapons. He said none of the pupils was in­jured.

The ri­ot­ing has also had an eco­nomic im­pact at the height of the shop­ping sea­son. In ad­di­tion to the clo­sure of the Eif­fel Tower, many shops and mu­se­ums across France, in­clud­ing the Lou­vre, Or­say Mu­seum and the Grand Palais, will keep their doors shut to­day. |


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