Paris shuts down, braces for new ri­ots

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - A* - By Sa­muel Pe­tre­quin and Sylvie Cor­bet

PARIS — France mo­bi­lized tens of thou­sands of po­lice of­fi­cers and made plans to shut down beloved tourist at­trac­tions like the Eif­fel Tower and the Lou­vre on the eve of antigov­ern­ment protests that au­thor­i­ties feared could be even more vi­o­lent than ones that have crip­pled the coun­try for weeks.

The dras­tic se­cu­rity mea­sures will put cen­tral Paris in a lock­down on Satur­day, dis­rupt­ing the plans of tens of thou­sands of tourists and res­i­dents.

Hun­dreds of shops in Paris planned to shut their doors as well, pre­fer­ring to lose busi­ness dur­ing the key hol­i­day shop­ping pe­riod rather than have their win­dows smashed in and their mer­chan­dise looted, as hap­pened to many Paris stores last Satur­day when an antigov­ern­ment protest over ris­ing taxes turned into a riot.

On Fri­day, work­ers across Paris lugged pieces of ply­wood and ham­mered boards over the win­dows of shops and busi­nesses — mak­ing the plush Champs-El­y­sees neigh­bor­hood ap­pear like it was brac­ing for a hur­ri­cane.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has stayed out of the pub­lic eye all week, leav­ing his un­pop­u­lar govern­ment to try to calm the na­tion. In re­sponse, “Macron, re­sign!” has be­come the main slo­gan of the “yel­low vest” demon­stra­tors.

The pro­test­ers’ anger has been di­rected at the French leader, who they feel has been the “pres­i­dent of the rich” and is out-of-touch with or­di­nary peo­ple.

Macron’s pro-busi­ness re­forms have aimed to make the French econ­omy more com­pet­i­tive glob­ally, but French work­ers see the changes as bru­tal and weak­en­ing their rights.

Macron, whose pop­u­lar­ity plum­meted in re­cent months, is also widely seen as ar­ro­gant, which comes out when he tells an un­em­ployed man he can find a job if he “crosses the street,” or ad­vis­ing a re­tiree not to com­plain.

The 40-year-old leader mostly spent the week hold­ing closed-door meet­ings in the El­y­see pres­i­den­tial palace, which many pro­test­ers see as an ivory tower where he is hid­ing away from the peo­ple.

The pres­i­dent’s of­fice said he would not speak be­fore Satur­day’s antigov­ern­ment protests.

Macron doesn’t face re-elec­tion un­til 2022 and his party has a strong ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment — yet his abil­ity to pass sweep­ing re­forms may be weak­ened by the yel­low vests move­ment. Sa­muel Pe­tre­quin and Sylvie Cor­bet are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

Alain Jo­card / AFP / Getty Im­ages

Work­ers place a board to pro­tect a store win­dow in the plush Champs-El­y­sees neigh­bor­hood in Paris.

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