France braced for 'day of rage' protests

Blanche Robertson
December 8, 2018

Saturday, Nov 17, is the first day of road blockades across France with almost 290,000 demonstrators wearing the fluorescent yellow vests motorists are required to carry in their cars.

Macron's government warned that Saturday's "yellow vest" protests in Paris will be hijacked by "radicalized and rebellious" crowds and become the most risky yet after three weeks of demonstrations.

Dozens of famed Paris attractions - including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum - are set to shutter on Saturday as local authorities warned of "significant violence" during an outbreak of anti-government protests. "I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and that he will take strong decisions", he said.

Many protesters are law-abiding French citizens, engaged in a street protest that has huge public support and is widely seen as a legitimate democratic action.

One participant, Christophe Chalancon, told reporters the prime minister "listened to us".

"These past three weeks have produced a monster that its creators no longer control", Interior Minister Castaner said on Friday, vowing "zero tolerance" toward those aiming to wreak further destruction.

Authorities deployed barricade-busting armored vehicles and 8,000 police in the capital alone; nationwide, some 89,000 security forces fanned out to deter or confront troublemakers expected at multiple protests.

Police said they had already detained some 354 people by Saturday morning ahead of the demonstrations.

Eight thousand police departments will be deployed in Paris, and local cops will remove all glass containers, railings and building machines from construction sites - even on the glitzy Champs-Élysées avenue - fearing that protesters could use them as makeshift weapons.

The protesters are angry at Macron and high taxes, among other problems.

Parts of Paris looked as if they were bracing for a hurricane, with boards on windows covering up the Christmas decorations.

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Though the song was supposedly written for Christmas parties, it's been recorded by some top artists over the last 50 years. Loesser said she was upset about the furore because "it's a song my father wrote for him and my mother to sing at parties".

The government is also considering using troops now deployed on anti-terrorism patrols to protect public buildings.

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 vehicle. The Nicolas wine chain, one of France's biggest retailers, canceled all its wine tasting sessions scheduled for Saturday.

"It's with an huge sadness that we'll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority", Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a statement. Macron, since returning from the G-20 meeting last weekend, has kept largely out of sight, a move that has puzzled supporters and critics.

The protesters accuse the centrist president of favouring the rich and city-dwellers over those trying to make ends meet in car-dependent rural and small-town France.

French police arrest a man during a Yellow Vests demonstration.

Trade unions and far-left parties have lashed out at perceived police brutality.

Internet users have voiced their utmost outrage over recently released videos sporting French high school students standing on their knees, with their hands on their heads, as helmeted police officers are shown standing nearby grabbing their batons.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner urged calm. He said no students were injured.

The rioting in France has also had an economic impact 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 neighbourhoods.

Dozens of streets in central Paris were closed to traffic, while the Eiffel Tower and world-famous museums such as the Musee d'Orsay, the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre were closed.

"We can not take the risk when we know the threat", Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, adding that far-right and far-left agitators were planning to hijack rallies by "yellow vest" protesters in Paris.

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