Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Around 300 Detained As Paris Goes In Lockdown Over Yellow Vest Protests

Protestors hold a banner which reads 'social winter is coming' during a demonstration in Brussels Saturday Dec. 8 2018. Hundreds of police officers French troops deployed in Paris amid ‘yellow vest’ protest
Nellie Chapman | 08 December, 2018, 18:25

Crowds of yellow-vested protesters angry at President Emmanuel Macron and France's high taxes tried to march on the presidential palace Saturday, surrounded by exceptional numbers of police bracing for outbreaks of violence after the worst rioting in Paris in decades.

Police have said more than 350 protesters have already been detained on Saturday morning - mainly preventive arrests as people arrived at Paris mainline stations.

Some 8,000 officers and 12 armoured vehicles have been deployed in Paris alone, and almost 90,000 in the country as a whole.

The "yellow vest" protests, named after the safety jackets worn by demonstrators, began on 17 November in opposition to rising fuel taxes, but have since grown into a wider movement against Emmanuel Macron in the biggest challenge of his presidency so far.

His morning tweet came in the middle of UN climate talks in Poland, where almost 200 nations have gathered to agree on a universal rulebook to make good on the promises they signed up to in the 2015 Paris climate deal.

Clashes have broken out between "yellow vest" protesters and police in the port neighbourhood of Marseille, in the south of France.

The operators of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and Orsay museums said they would be closed, along with operas, theatres, libraries and major department stores.

Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said that around 400 protesters were gathered in the area.

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

Demonstrators waving French flags, shouting the French anthem and wearing the movement's signature neon vests gathered before dawn Saturday near the Arc de Triomphe, then tried to march down the Champs-Elysees Avenue toward the presidential palace.

Protesters, using social media, have billed the weekend as "Act IV" in a dramatic challenge to Macron and his government's policies.

Police spray protestors with pepper spray during a demonstration in Brussels Saturday Dec. 8 2018. Hundreds of police officers are being mobilized
Police spray protestors with pepper spray during a demonstration in Brussels Saturday Dec. 8 2018. Hundreds of police officers are being mobilized

"We need to protect culture sites in Paris but also everywhere in France", Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio.

They argue the president is out of touch with ordinary people and many are calling on him to resign.

"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.

Some could be held in the city centre on what is a major Christmas shopping weekend.

Interior Minister Christopher Castaner said that he expects radical elements to be present in Paris and that "the past three weeks have given birth to a monster that has escaped its creators".

Authorities said 575 people had been searched and briefly arrested and that 361 of them remained in custody after police found potential weapons such as hammers, baseball bats and metal petanque balls on them.

Prominent "yellow vest" protester Benjamin Cauchy has called on Mr Macron to meet a delegation to defuse a situation that he said had brought France "to the brink of insurrection and civil war". He called on peaceful protesters not to get mixed up with "hooligans".

The movement has no clear leaders. "Some ultra-violent people want to take part".

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".

Meanwhile, Macron seemingly has gone missing as his government tries to curb the chaos caused by his unpopular gas-tax plan.

French high school students take to the streets.