Paris on lockdown for gilets jaunes protests

Posted December 09, 2018

French riot police clashed with "yellow vest" protesters in central Paris on Saturday during the latest wave of demonstrations against high living costs which have shaken President Emmanuel Macron's authority.

A police spokeswoman told reporters there were about 1,500 protesters on the Champs Elysees boulevard.

A group of a few hundred took side streets and tried to get past a police barricade, and police fired back with tear gas.

Patrice Habrrt, a Paris resident who brought his son out to watch the protests, told Beardsley, "We want to understand the people who are still demonstrating".

Almost 90,000 officers were deployed countrywide in anticipation of clashes, including 8,000 in Paris where 12 armoured vehicles were also utilised.

Three Associated Press journalists had gas masks and protective goggles confiscated by police despite carrying government-issued press cards.

At least four of the weekend's first division football matches have been cancelled.

Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron's ratings have fallen to 23% amid the crisis, polls suggest.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that 135 people had been injured and 974 taken into custody amid protests around the nation.

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Police officers clash with demonstrators wearing yellow vests in Paris on Saturday. After a month of protests inspired by a new fuel tax, there are fears the "yellow vest" movement has been infiltrated by radical and violent protesters.

Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, but that has not defused the anger, embodied by the fluorescent safety vests French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

Police put up barricades there and both vehicles and pedestrians were denied access.

According to Belga news agency, young protesters blocked a highway linking Brussels to the town of Rekkem in Flanders, near the French border.

He also said there are now hooligans among the demonstrators, but they are not the core.

Much of the city will effectively be on lockdown. Dozens of streets 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 shut.

Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world's most visited cities.

As it did last weekend, the U.S. Embassy advised Americans to avoid the demonstrations.

In a warning of impending violence, an MP for Macron's party, Benoit Potterie, received a bullet in the mail on Friday with the words: "Next time it will be between your eyes".

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Protests at some 280 schools against stricter university entrance requirements have added to a sense of general revolt in France as the "yellow vest" protests rumble on.

Since then the movement has snowballed into a wider revolt against Macron's economic policies and his top-down approach to power.

The reason for the demonstrations appears to have morphed into a call for Macron's resignation, as well as a decrease in the cost of gasoline and other necessities.

The hardline CGT union, hoping to capitalise on the movement, has called for rail and metro strikes next Friday to demand immediate wage and pension increases.

Castaner estimated Friday that 10,000 people were taking part nationwide.

Scenes of schoolchildren kneeling with their hands behind their heads has triggered outrage as France braces itself for more violent protests this weekend. Rioters looted a golf supply store, making off with clubs they used to smash the windows of bank branches. Many are calling on him to resign.

Meanwhile, thousands of other French joined a very different protest on Saturday - marching in the capital and other cities for more action to fight climate change. They claim the president only cares about the rich, not the poor.

Different protesters have different aims, and there is no widely recognised group of leaders for the grassroots movement which took root on social media.

About 89,000 police were deployed across France on Saturday, some 8,000 of them in Paris.

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