Eiffel Tower to close Saturday over planned protests in Paris

Posted December 07, 2018

"We are facing people who are not here to protest, but to smash and we want to have the means to not give them a free rein", Philippe said during an interview on TF1 national evening news.

With protesters calling on social media for "Act IV" - a fourth weekend of protest - Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 65,000 police would be drafted in to stop a repeat of last Saturday's mayhem in Paris, when rioters torched cars and looted shops off the Champs Elysees boulevard.

But so far the "yellow vest" movement shows no signs of losing steam, despite the government's rollback of planned fuel tax hikes for January, one of the protesters' core demands. Many workers in France are angry over the combination of low wages, high taxes and high unemployment that have left many people struggling financially.

The French government caved in after the worst riots in decades and delayed an increase in energy taxes. But instead of appeasing the protesters, it spurred other groups to join in, hoping for concessions of their own.

So after nightfall Wednesday, as parliament debated the 2019 budget, Macron's government suddenly gave in.

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French health minister Agnès Buzyn, speaking to RTL Radio on Thursday morning, said: "There is a concern about this violence, and some who do not want to find a solution". The demonstrators have also shown an ability to adapt, however, as they have moved from a specific anti-tax protest into a wider movement to show discontent with the government.

One unifying complaint among the leaderless protesters, who come from across the political and social spectrum, has been the anger at Macron and the perceived elitism of France's aloof ruling class. Other police unions are not talking about strikes - but two police union officials told The Associated Press they are anxious about radical troublemakers and others taking advantage of the protest atmosphere to cause even greater damage this Saturday.

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Macron's retreat vindicated his rejection of the 2015 Paris Agreement on combating climate change.

Four people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism have been widely condemned.

Despite last weekend's violence, attributed by many to vandals intent on rioting, public support for the yellow vests has remained stable, with an opinion poll this week showing 72 percent backed the movement.

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Macron's popularity has slumped to a new low since the demonstrations began. After winning election overwhelmingly last year, the 40-year-old pro-business centrist has sought to make France more competitive globally.

France's main farmers' union said on Wednesday that its members would stage demonstrations every day next week.

Many are also anxious after Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Wednesday that measures aimed at improving their negotiating power with distributors would be delayed as the government grapples with the "yellow vest" movement. A joint statement from the CGT and the FO trucking unions called for action Sunday night to protest a cut in overtime rates.

Scores of protesting teens clashed with police at a high school west of Paris, as part of nationwide student protests over new university admissions procedures and rising administrative fees. The protesters "are defending a cause, they're following through and rightly so".

The high school students' FIDL union called for "massive" protests Thursday and urged France's education minister to step down. Julien Guiller, a spokesman for the regional school administration, told the AP that the student was expected to survive.

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"I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago", Trump tweeted.