A COUP IS BREWING AS ‘YELLOW VEST’ PROTESTS RIP THROUGH FRANCE
France has witnessed its worst violent protests in decades, as fears of a possible coup attempt against French President Emmanuel Macron have spread
AMID violence in the capital three weekends running, a French ministry has warned of the possibility of a coup d’état, Le Figaro newspaper reported late Thursday. “They are putschists. We are in a coup attempt,” French officials were quoted as saying in the piece. The report said protesters are also planning to attack officials, including bureaucrats, government and security officials.
French intelligence services, Le Figaro also said there are “calls to kill and be armed with guns to attack parliamentarians, the government, the officials of the executive and the police,” adding that the secret services reported these threats to the presidency.
Much of Paris is in lockdown and tens of thousands of police deployed across the nation to contain what protesters are billing as “Act IV” to the “yellow vest” rebellion that has seen the worst unrest in the capital since the 1968 student riots. Some 89,000 policemen are on duty to stop a repeat of last Saturday’s mayhem. About 8,000 of them are deployed in Paris where rioters last weekend torched cars, looted shops and defaced the Arc de Triomphe with anti-Macron graffiti. Anoth- er weekend of violence raises doubts over the durability of Macron’s prime minister, though aides to Macron and Philippe say there is no discord between them. Senior allies said Macron would address the nation early next week over public anger at the cost of living. Yet, all signs are that the government has failed to quell the revolt.
The yellow vest protests began Nov. 17 over the government plan to raise taxes on diesel and gasoline, but by the time Macron bowed to three weeks of violence and abandoned the new fuel tax, protesters were demanding much more. Many workers in France are angry over the combination of low wages, high taxes and high unemployment that have left many people struggling financially.
Amid the unrest, some of the protesters, French union officials and prominent politicians across the political spectrum urged calm especially as French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike that triggered the movement. However, protesters’ demands have now expanded to other issues hurting French workers, retirees and students.
Students opposing education reform protested again Friday, a day after footage widely shared on social media showing the arrest of high school students protesting outside Paris prompted an outcry. Trade unions and far-left parties have lashed out at perceived police brutality.
The images, filmed Thursday at Mantes-la-Jolie, showed a group of students 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.
The French government on Friday defended the tactics of the riot police. “Over the past few days, the students have been joined by about 100 hooded youths armed with clubs and incendiary devices and determined to pick a fight with police,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference. Castaner said roadblocks had been set alight, projectiles hurled at motorists and houses robbed in the area around the two schools. “It is in this context that the security forces stepped in,” the minister added. Education Minister JeanMichel Blanquer described the images as “shocking” but said the violence convulsing France in recent weeks justified the heavyhanded policing.
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Protesters wearing yellow vests gather near a burning car during clashes near the Place de l’Etoile in Paris, France, Dec. 1.
A worker cleans graffiti reading “long term unrest” near the Champs-Elysees avenue, Paris, Dec. 7.