Police fire tear gas, more arrests
‘Yellow Vest’ protesters in Paris have clashed with police, as tear gas was fired near the Champs-Elysees at the third fuel tax protest in the heart of France’s capital.
Some 320 people have been arrested by police in Paris as fuel tax protesters began to gather again.
Television images showed several hundred Yellow Vest protesters on the Champs-Elysees, after passing through strict police checks.
Last week, the area around the nearby Arc de Troimphe saw violent clashes that left more than 100 people injured.
Some 89,000 members of the security forces have been mobilised around the country, with 8000 in place in the capital, backed up by gendarmerie armoured cars — a first for this protest movement.
Police said that 32 of those arrested at an earlier point in the morning were being held for questioning.
Many of those arrested were suspected of joining a gathering in order to prepare violence, destruction or vandalism, according to police.
YELLOW VESTS CONVERGE ON PARISIAN LANDMARKS
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.
Rows of helmeted, thickly protected riot police blocked the demonstrators’ passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the heart of presidential power. A ring of steel surrounded the Elysee Palace itself as police stationed trucks and reinforced steel barriers in streets throughout the entire neighbourhood.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS SHUT
Prized Paris monuments and normally bustling shopping meccas locked down and tens of thousands of police took position around France.
Macron’s government warned that Saturday’s yellow vest protests in Paris will be hijacked by “radicalised and rebellious” crowds and become the most dangerous yet after three weeks of demonstrations.
The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum were among those that remained closed, fearing damage after rioting and looting last Saturday that saw 130 people injured.
Demonstrators waving French flags and wearing the movement’s signature neon vests gathered before dawn Saturday near the Arc de Triomphe, which was damaged in last week’s rioting. Others lined up for police searches and bag checks throughout central Paris.
By midmorning, 343 people had been detained in Paris, according to a Paris police spokeswoman.
Authorities deployed barricade-busting armoured 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.
HOW THE MOVEMENT BEGAN
The grassroots movement began as resistance against a rise in taxes for diesel and gasoline, but quickly expanded to encompass frustration at stagnant incomes and the growing cost of living. Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, but that hasn’t defused the anger, embodied by the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists are required to keep in their cars.
Many members of the protest movement are calling for calm, and some struck a conciliatory tone after meeting the prime minister Friday night, in a last- minute bid to cool tempers.
But that didn’t deter many people from trying to march on the presidential palace.