French po­lice brace for more violent ri­ots

‘Yel­low vest’ protests have hurt mon­u­ments, Macron’s pop­u­lar­ity

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD - BY JAMES MCAU­LEY Quentin Ariès con­trib­uted to this re­port.

PARIS — France pre­pared Fri­day for a fourth it­er­a­tion of violent protests that have rocked the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron in re­cent weeks. Au­thor­i­ties an­nounced that nearly 89,000 po­lice of­fi­cers would be dis­patched through­out the coun­try dur­ing the week­end, while many pop­u­lar attractions an­nounced un­usual clo­sures.

Af­ter nearly a month of week­end ri­ots, the “yel­low vest” move­ment — orig­i­nally launched as a re­sponse to a car­bon tax de­signed to curb cli­mate change — has come to rep­re­sent the most grave po­lit­i­cal cri­sis France has seen in years. The anger reached a fever pitch in Paris last week­end, when pro­test­ers burned cars, des­e­crated his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments and clashed with po­lice in violent ex­changes un­seen since the up­heavals of 1968.

On Wed­nes­day, the gov­ern­ment agreed to with­draw the con­tentious car­bon tax, but the yel­low vests have vowed to con­tinue the vi­o­lence re­gard­less. Ten­sions mounted fur­ther Fri­day af­ter footage of a stand­off be­tween French po­lice and a group of ar­rested high school stu­dents who had threat­ened them went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.

On Fri­day, the French gov­ern­ment sought to dif­fuse wide­spread anx­i­eties over an­other crip­pling riot. Christophe Cas­taner, France’s in­te­rior minister, said that the move­ment only fea­tured about 10,000 mem­bers but the week­end demon­stra­tions would fea­ture some ul­tra­vi­o­lent peo­ple. “That’s not France,” he said.

The source of the In­te­rior Min­istry’s statis­tics was un­clear: As of Fri­day af­ter­noon, one of the yel­low vest move­ment’s Face­book groups had more than 156,000 mem­bers, and was ac­tive with a seem­ingly con­stant stream of new posts, polls and live videos. An af­fil­i­ated Face­book group had more than 280,000 mem­bers.

Of the 89,000 of­fi­cers to be dis­patched through­out France, 8,000 will be on patrol in Paris. This week­end’s se­cu­rity pres­ence will rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease from last week­end, when 65,000 of­fi­cers were on duty.

For the mo­ment, Macron, whose ap­proval rat­ings con­tinue to fall — this week to as low as 23 per­cent — has not yet weighed in on the com­ing protests. An El­y­see Palace of­fi­cial told The Wash­ing­ton Post that the French leader would speak some­time early next week but could pro­vide no fur­ther de­tails.

In Paris, lo­cals braced for the worst.

A net­work of 39 mu­nic­i­pal hospi­tals an­nounced a “re­in­forced vig­i­lance plan” for Satur­day that in­cluded ex­tra emer­gency ca­pac­i­ties: 162 were in­jured and treated in lo­cal hospi­tals last week­end. Shop­keep­ers, mean­while, boarded up store win­dows dur­ing a week­end that would nor­mally fea­ture prime hol­i­day shop­ping. Au­thor­i­ties bar­ri­caded streets.

In a state­ment Fri­day morn­ing, France’s na­tional mon­u­ments as­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced that the Arc de Tri­om­phe and many other pop­u­lar sites would close Satur­day. The Lou­vre Mu­seum, the Or­say Mu­seum and many other sites also an­nounced clo­sures.

AR­NAUD JOURNOIS/POOL/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IM­AGES

Gen­darmes show French In­te­rior Minister Christophe Cas­taner, sec­ond from right, one of a dozen ar­mored ve­hi­cles that, along with 8,000 of­fi­cers, will be de­ployed to Paris for week­end protests.

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