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.
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