France braced for 'day of rage' protests

Kenny Grant
December 8, 2018

On Friday he met gendarmes in the eastern Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne ahead of the Saturday demonstrations. Police were mounted on horses and surrounded protesters with trained dogs.

Associated Press reporters witnessed multiple protesters hurt in Saturday's clashes with police.

"There have been around 70 arrests following checks carried out as a preventive measure", Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van De Keere said.

Shouts of "Macron, resign" mingled with tear gas on the famous Champs-Elysees avenue, and thick plumes of black smoke from fires rose high into the sky.

A group of a few hundred took side streets and tried to get past a police barricade, and police fired back with tear gas. More than 250 people have been arrested.

Prized Paris monuments and normally bustling shopping meccas were locked down Saturday at the height of the holiday shopping season.

With further "significant violence" expected on Saturday, Paris is going into effective lockdown, with the Eiffel Tower and scores of shops on the Champs-Elysees to close as a precaution, as well major museums including the Louvre. The city subway system was shut down in the center of town.

The government later scrapped the plan but the yellow vest protesters were not placated.

Protesters took to the streets of Paris for a third weekend of violence and looting despite French President Emmanuel Macron backing down on the fuel tax hike that sparked the movement in the first place.

Police were earlier searching people throughout zones of central Paris and confiscating goggles and gas masks from journalists who use them to protect against tear gas while covering demonstrations.

Some protesters Saturday attempted to block the Porte Maillot dual carriageway, which is a toll-free route into Paris. The national gendarme service posted a video on Twitter of police tackling a protester and confiscating his unsafe material, which appeared to be primarily a tennis racket.

But the protests were far smaller than last week's demonstrations, as police sought to preempt any chaos by arresting protesters and confiscating unsafe objects before demonstrations began.

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President Emmanuel Macron's government has warned that the protests will be hijacked by "radicalised and rebellious" crowds and become the most risky yet, after three weeks of demonstrations.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron's climate credibility has earned mixed reviews since his election previous year - despite the "Champion of the Earth" prize the United Nations awarded him in September.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday postponed a proposed hike in the country's tax on gas and diesel fuel, meant to encourage more usage of electric vehicles, but it doesn't seem to have derailed the protests.

The yellow vests include people with views that range from the far right to the far left. The leaderless group is united primarily in its sense that Macron and his government are out of touch.

"Now we await Mr Macron". "But I still want to be here to say 'Stop, that's enough, this has to stop'". A week ago, protesters stormed, vandalized and defaced the Arc de Triomphe, the 19th-century arch that's one of France's most well-known landmarks.

"According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference.

Four people have died in accidents during the "yellow vest" protests and political leaders from across the spectrum have appealed for calm.

Since the unrest began November 17 in response to a sharp increase in diesel taxes, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

The national Federation of French markets said that Christmas markets have been "strongly impacted" and that its members registered "an average fall of their estimated figures between 30 and 40 percent since the beginning of the yellow vest movement".

The protesters began blocking roads, fuel depots and shopping centres around France on November 17 over soaring petrol prices that have hit people in the provinces who get around by auto.

The protests have also begun to spread beyond France into other countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium.

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