Police in Paris detain 320 people ahead of 'yellow vest' protest

Oscar PerryDec 09, 2018

A ring of steel surrounded the Elysee Palace itself, as police stationed trucks and reinforced steel barriers in streets throughout the entire neighbourhood.

Much of Paris looked like a ghost town on Saturday, with museums, department stores closed on what should have been a festive pre-Christmas shopping day.

Toughening security tactics, French authorities deployed 8,000 security officers in the capital alone, among the 89,000 who fanned out around the country.

Some 8,000 police were deployed, carrying out checks on people arriving at train stations and at protest hotspots such as the Champs-Elysees and Bastille monument.

Macron on Wednesday agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, which aimed to wean France off fossil fuels and uphold the Paris climate agreement, but that hasn't defused the anger.

Saturday's yellow vest crowd was overwhelmingly male, a mix of those bringing their financial grievances to Paris - the centre of France's government, economy and culture - along with groups of experienced vandals who tore steadily through some of the city's wealthiest neighbourhoods, smashing and burning.

Protesters threw back the tear gas at the police, only to escalate the clashes. He called on peaceful protesters not to get mixed up with "hooligans". Many arrests were carried out early as police conducted searches ahead of the protests, seeking to prevent rioting. "Colleagues be careful on the Champs-Elysees".

Almost 90,000 police and gendarmes have been mobilised across the country, around 8,000 of them in the capital, officials have said, alongside a dozen VBRG armoured vehicles.

"We had set up an exceptional safety arrangement in the whole of France and Paris in particular to have the capacity to repel violent protesters and proceed to many arrests".

A protestor holds a tear gas canister during a demonstration against rising costs of living, on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Saturdya, Dec. 8, 2018.

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The protesters gathered in two districts of the city - Arts Lois and Porte de Namur - but there were no incidents of violence.

The French retail sector has suffered a loss in revenue of about $1.1 billion since the beginning of the yellow vest protests last month, a spokeswoman for the French retail federation, Sophie Amoros, told CNN.

"Now we await Mr Macron".

The government later scrapped the plan but the yellow vest protesters were not placated.

He pointed out that this is the fourth week of protests, and they only appear to growing in size and intensity.

A smaller "yellow vest" demonstration of around 500 people also took place in the Belgian capital Brussels near the European Parliament, according to the newspaper Le Soir. "We know that the violent people are only strong because they hide themselves within the yellow vests, which hampers the security forces".

Since the anti-government unrest began on November 17 in reaction to a sharp increase in diesel taxes, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents. Christmas markets, national football matches and countless other events have been cancelled or duisrupted by the protests.

The Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks were shut, shops were boarded up to avoid looting and street furniture removed to avoid metal bars from being used as projectiles.

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. That's because the yellow-vest movement has galvanized support for protests via social networks, particularly Facebook, with a potent mix of genuine stories of suffering caused by real failings of the French government and a raft of conspiracy theories and hoaxes - including the viral rumor that a non-binding United Nations pact on migration would soon put France under UN administration, so that millions of migrants could be resettled to replace the native-born population.

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