France fears more ri­ots; Mu­se­ums, Eiffel Tower to close

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By An­gela Charl­ton and Alex Turn­bull

Au­thor­i­ties across France braced Thurs­day for the pos­si­bil­ity of more ri­ots and vi­o­lence at antigov­ern­ment protests this week­end, hold­ing emer­gency meet­ings and de­ploy­ing tens of thou­sands of po­lice and se­cu­rity forces. Mu­se­ums, the­aters and shops in Paris an­nounced they would close Satur­day as a pre­cau­tion — in­clud­ing the city’s famed Eiffel Tower.

Po­lice unions and city au­thor­i­ties met to strate­gize on how to han­dle the protests on Satur­day, which are be­ing held even though French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron sur­ren­dered Wed­nes­day night and can­celled a fuel tax hike that had un­leashed weeks of un­rest.

On the other side of France’s volatile so­cial de­bate, dis­parate groups of pro­test­ers did the same thing, shar­ing their week­end plans on so­cial net­works and chat groups.

Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe told sen­a­tors Thurs­day that the gov­ern­ment will de­ploy “ex­cep­tional” se­cu­rity mea­sures for the protests in Paris and else­where, with ad­di­tional new forces on top of

Speak­ing on TF1 tele­vi­sion, Philippe said 89,000 po­lice of­fi­cers will be de­ployed on Satur­day across France — up from 65,000 last week­end.

In Paris alone, 8,000 po­lice of­fi­cers will be mo­bi­lized. They will be equipped with a dozen ar­mored ve­hi­cles —a first in a French ur­ban area since 2005.

Some “yel­low vest” pro­test­ers, French union of­fi­cials and prom­i­nent politi­cians across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum called for calm Thurs­day af­ter the worst ri­ot­ing in Paris in decades last week­end.

Macron agreed to aban­don the fuel tax hike, part of his plans to com­bat global warm­ing, but pro­test­ers’ de­mands have now ex­panded to other is­sues hurt­ing French work­ers, re­tirees and stu­dents. And in a move ques­tioned by both crit­ics and sup­port­ers, the pres­i­dent him­self has dis­ap­peared from pub­lic view.

The prime min­is­ter re­it­er­ated the gov­ern­ment’s plan to scrap a fuel tax rise planned by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment be­cause of the “ex­treme ten­sions” France is fac­ing.

“No tax de­serves to put civil peace in dan­ger,” Philippe said.

The ri­ot­ing in Paris has wor­ried tourists, prompted the can­cel­la­tion of four French league soc­cer matches this week­end around the coun­try and dam­aged the lo­cal econ­omy at the height of the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son. Ram­pag­ing groups last week­end threw cob­ble­stones through Paris store­fronts and looted valu­ables in some of the city’s rich­est neigh­bor­hoods.

The Eiffel Tower, along with more than a dozen mu­se­ums, two the­aters and other cul­tural sites in Paris, will be closed Satur­day for se­cu­rity rea­sons. The Paris Opera has can­celled planned per­for­mances Satur­day on its two Parisian sites.

Two mu­sic fes­ti­vals in Paris have been post­poned and the Arc de Tri­om­phe re­mains closed since it was dam­aged in last week­end’s protest, which left over 130 peo­ple in­jured.

Paris po­lice have also urged shops in the city’s high-end Champs-El­y­sees area to close Satur­day as a pre­cau­tion.

Protests sim­mered Thurs­day in sev­eral French re­gions.

BOB EDME — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Stu­dents watch a burn­ing trash bin out­side their school in Bay­onne, south­west­ern France, Thurs­day, Dec.6, 2018. Protest­ing stu­dents are dis­rupt­ing schools and uni­ver­si­ties Thurs­day, and driv­ers are still block­ing roads around France, now de­mand­ing broader tax cuts and gov­ern­ment aid.

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