Nearly 90K French police to hit streets
Some Paris businesses closed to thwart looters
PARIS — Anticipating a fourth straight weekend of violent protests, France on Friday mobilized armored vehicles and thousands of police, cordoned off Paris’ broad boulevards and made plans to shut down tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre.
The heavy security will put central Paris in a virtual lockdown Saturday against what the interior minister called “radicalized and rebellious people,” who authorities believe will join members of the “yellow vest” movement that has been holding anti-government demonstrations.
Nationwide, about 89,000 police will fan out in the streets, an increase from 65,000 last weekend, when more than 130 people were injured and over 400 arrested as the protests erupted into the worst street violence to hit the French capital in decades.
Fearing increasing violence, hundreds of businesses planned to close Saturday, preferring to lose a key holiday shopping day rather than have stores smashed and looted, like they were a week ago when protests over rising taxes turned into a riot.
Workers hammered plywood over the windows of shops and businesses, making the plush Champs-elysees neighborhood appear to be bracing for a hurricane.
About 8,000 police will be deployed across Paris, equipped with a dozen barricade-busting armored vehicles that could be used for the first time in a French urban area since riots in 2005.
As it did last weekend, the U.S. Embassy advised Americans in France to avoid the demonstrations.
Since the unrest began Nov. 17 in response to a sharp increase in diesel taxes, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents. Now the demands of the “yellow vest” movement — named for the fluorescent safety gear that French motorists keep in their cars — is pressing for a wider range of benefits from the government to help workers, retirees and students.
President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday agreed to abandon the fuel tax increase, but the protesters’ anger at his government has not abated. Macron, since returning from the G-20 meeting last weekend, has kept largely out of sight, a move that has puzzled supporters and critics.
Workers carry a wooden piece to protect shop windows Friday on the Champs-elysees in Paris. The Arc de Triomphe is seen in the background. Heavy security will put central Paris in a virtual lockdown Saturday.