France beefs up with 89 000 cops

PROTESTS: EIF­FEL TOWER, TOURIST LAND­MARKS CLOSED Rush of sweet­en­ers to soothe pub­lic anger be­gan with U-turn on fuel-tax hikes.

The Citizen (KZN) - - FRONT PAGE - Paris

France will close the Eif­fel Tower and other tourism land­marks in Paris and draft in thou­sands more se­cu­rity forces to­day to stave off an­other wave of violent protests over the liv­ing costs.

With pro­test­ers from the “yel­low vest” move­ment call­ing on so­cial me­dia for “Act IV” – a fourth week­end of protest – Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 89 000 po­lice na­tion­wide would be de­ployed to stop a re­peat of last Satur­day’s may­hem.

About 8 000 of­fi­cers would be de­ployed in Paris where ri­ot­ers torched cars and looted shops off the famed Champs El­y­sees Boule­vard, and de­faced the Arc de Tri­om­phe with graf­fiti di­rected at Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron.

Seek­ing to re­gain the ini­tia­tive af­ter weeks of civil un­rest, the gov­ern­ment ap­peared ready to of­fer con­ces­sions.

Philippe told the Se­nate he was open to new mea­sures to help the low­est-paid work­ers while Fi­nance Minister Bruno le Maire said he was keen to ex­tend tax cuts for house­holds and that he wanted work­ers’ bonuses to be tax-free.

“I am ready to look at all mea­sures that will help raise the pay of those on the min­i­mum wage with­out do­ing ex­ces­sive dam­age to our com­pet­i­tive­ness and busi­nesses,” he told the up­per house.

The rush of sweet­en­ers to soothe pub­lic anger be­gan with Philippe’s climb-down on fuel tax hikes, the first ma­jor U-turn of Macron’s pres­i­dency.

Yet, five days af­ter the worst ri­ot­ing Paris has seen since 1968, all signs are that the gov­ern­ment has failed to quell the re­volt.

A re­peat of last Satur­day’s vi­o­lence would deal a huge blow to the econ­omy and raise doubts over the gov­ern­ment’s sur­vival.

Philippe said the state would do all it could to main­tain or­der. Six first divi­sion foot­ball matches have been can­celled. Au­thor­i­ties in Paris or­dered dozens of mu­se­ums, tourism sites, shops and restau­rants to close to­day, in­clud­ing the Eif­fel Tower and Lou­vre.

Of­fi­cials in 15 ar­eas around the cap­i­tal were also asked to re­move any­thing in the streets that could be used as pro­jec­tiles.

“We’re fac­ing peo­ple who’re not here to protest, but to smash and we want to have the means to not give them a free rein,” Philippe told TF1 TV’s evening news.

Re­vers­ing course on next year’s fuel-tax hikes have left a gap­ing €4 bil­lion (R64 bil­lion) hole in the gov­ern­ment’s 2019 bud­get.

I am ready to look at all mea­sures that will help

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