French school children held on their knees by police during Paris protest

Evarado Alatorre
Diciembre 8, 2018

In addition to the closure of the Eiffel Tower, many shops and museums across Paris, including the Louvre, the Orsay Museum and the Grand Palais, will keep their doors shut on Saturday for safety reasons.

Demonstrators waving French flags 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 toward the presidential palace.

The barricade-busting armored vehicles could be used for the first time in a French urban area since riots in 2005. "I ask the yellow vests that want to bring about a peaceful message to not go with the violent people".

Last weekend's violence, which saw some 200 cars torched and the Arc de Triomphe vandalised, shook France and plunged Macron's government into its deepest crisis so far.

A spokesman from the movement, Christophe Chalencon, said Philippe had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president".

The government is scrambling to stave off another Saturday of burned cars and running street battles with police by "yellow vest" protesters furious over rising costs of living they blame on high taxes.

"We are here to tell (Macron) our discontent".

On Friday he met gendarmes in the eastern Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne ahead of the Saturday demonstrations.

Defending the treatment of the children, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner aid: "Over the past few days, the students have been joined by about 100 hooded youths armed with clubs and incendiary devices and determined to pick a fight with police".

Department stores were also staying closed due to the risk of looting on what would normally be a busy shopping weekend in the run-up to Christmas.

Foreign governments are watching developments closely.

The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid crowds", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens to postpone any planned visits.

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Demonstrations have since swelled into a broad, sometimes-violent rebellion against Macron - a challenge made more hard to handle since the movement has no formal leader.

Protests at dozens of schools over stricter university entrance requirements, and a call by farmers for demonstrations next week, have added to a sense of a government under siege.

But the "yellow vests", some of whom who have become increasingly radicalised, are holding out for more.

And 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.

Macron's decision early in his presidency to slash taxes on France's wealthiest is particularly unpopular with the protesters.

The 40-year-old former investment banker, dubbed "the president of the rich" by critics, has so far ruled out re-imposing the "fortune tax" on high-earners, arguing it is necessary to boost investment and create jobs.

Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began.

His U-turn on higher fuel taxes - which were meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure.

Parts of Paris looked like they were bracing for a hurricane, with boards on windows covering up the Christmas decorations.

Fearing protesters could target street furniture and use material found at construction sites as makeshift weapons, Paris police will remove all the glass containers, railings and building machines set up in the identified sectors which include the world-renowned and glitzy Champs-Élysées avenue.

"It's with an enormous sadness that we'll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority", said Mayor Anne Hidalgo. "Take care of Paris on Saturday because Paris belongs to all the French people".

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