Police in Paris detain 320 people ahead of 'yellow vest' protest

Blanche Robertson
December 8, 2018

Authorities say some 89000 police will be mobilized across the country with some 8000 security forces and a dozen armored vehicles only in the capital Paris.

Although the students are demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements, they have seized on the momentum of the ongoing "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron.

An expected 8,000 police officers will be dispatched in the capital to counteract the potential "small minority" who have been "radicalized and fallen into violence and hate", the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said at a press conference on Friday.

Police removed any materials from the streets that could be used as weapons, especially at construction sites in high-risk areas.

"It's with an vast sadness that we'll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority", Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

Across the country some 89,000 police will be mobilized, up from 65,000 last weekend, when the country was rocked by daylong scenes of urban unrest in Paris. And authorities have also cancelled six French league soccer matches this weekend around the country.

The national federation of French markets said its members registered "an average fall of their estimated figures between 30 and 40 per cent since the beginning of the movement of the yellow vests".

On Friday he met gendarmes in the eastern Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne ahead of the Saturday demonstrations. "I think this is what the French people want, they want answers", Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne told Sud Radio on Friday.

The so-called yellow vest protests, named after the reflective vests all French drivers are required to keep in their cars, have been ongoing in France since November 17 in response to the government's plans to raise fuel tax. The Nicolas wine chain, one of France's biggest retailers, canceled all its wine tasting sessions scheduled for Saturday.

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Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo issued a plea to those planning on rioting: "Take care of Paris on Saturday because Paris belongs to all the French people".

The climbdown over the fuel tax - meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure for Macron, who has previously vowed not to be swayed, like previous presidents, by large street protests. The movement criticizes President Emmanuel Macron and has disparate grievances, including education reform, police brutality, and union workers' rights.

The images, filmed Thursday at Mantes-la-Jolie, showed a group of students on their knees with their hands behind their head.

Dozens of people wearing face masks threw Molotov cocktails, torched rubbish bins and clashed with police outside schools in several cities on Thursday.

Workers remove the words 'The Yellow Vests will Triumph, ' which protesters spray painted on the Arc de Triomphe last week.

The protesters, mainly from small-town and rural France, have broad public support, with an opinion poll this week showing 72 percent backed the demonstrations despite last weekend's violence.

The Eiffel Tower and scores of shops on the Champs-Elysees will be closed Saturday as a precaution, as will major museums including the Louvre.

The government is also considering using troops now deployed on anti-terrorism patrols to protect public buildings. "And in case they set up barricades, we can quickly clear out the space and let our units progress".

"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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