French braces for massive "yellow jacket" protests – Al Jazeera English


France is preparing for further tax protests on the "yellow vest", putting the nation on alert as tens of thousands of security forces have been deployed to prevent demonstrations from becoming violent.

The Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks in Paris were closed on Saturday, the shops were boarded to avoid looting and street furniture removed to prevent the use of metal bars like bullets.

The government of President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the protests will be hijacked by "radicalized and rebellious" crowds and will become even more dangerous after three weeks of demonstrations.

Macron announced at the beginning of this week that the expected tax increases on petrol and diesel, which triggered the protest movement, would be canceled outright.

But prominent protestors have said they will come down to Paris anyway, with a broader set of economic demands, including lower taxes, higher salaries, cheaper energy costs, better pension arrangements and even Macron's resignation.

About 89,000 policemen have been deployed throughout the country. About 8,000 of these were deployed in Paris to avoid the chaos of last Saturday, when the rioters launched cars and looted outside the famous Avenue of the Champs Elysees and defaced the Arc de Triomphe with graffiti directed to Macron.

"We just had Interior Minister Christophe Castaner himself come to speak with riot police, no doubt he reassured them that they will not run out of tear gas reserves today, as they did last Saturday," said David Charter of Al Jazeera from Paris.

"The police forces are determined to make sure that the violent scenes are not repeated, but I do not think they can guarantee it, because there are so many people here … everyone is converging on this area, and they are aiming to , Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees ", added the Charter.

The protesters, using social media, defined the weekend as "Act IV" in a dramatic challenge to Macron and his government's policies.

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

But the protesters believe they are fighting for a just cause.

"There's an increase in people's anger, and it's caused by just one reason – government policies that only look to the poor to keep the rich," Al Jazeera Taha Bouhafs, an activist in Paris, said.

On Friday evening, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe met a delegation of "moderate" yellow jackets who self-defined and invited people not to participate in the protests.

After the meeting, a spokesman for the movement, Christophe Chalencon, said that Philippe "listened to us and promised to bring our requests to the president".

"Now we are waiting for Mr. Macron, I hope he will speak to the French people as a father, with love and respect and who will make strong decisions," he said.

Violence and anarchy

The authorities claim that the protests have been diverted by elements of the extreme right and anarchists bent on violence and provoking social unrest, in an affront directed to Macron and the security forces.

An Eliseo official said that intelligence had suggested that some demonstrators would come to the capital "to vandalize and kill".

The US Embassy issued a warning to the Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid the crowd", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic have warned citizens that they intend to visit the capital in the weekend to postpone their visit.

Eric Drouet, one of the promoters of the protests, has invited people to protest on the roads and motorways that surround Paris, "where there is nothing to break and nothing to destroy", but where they can "shout" their anger .

Macron, who has not spoken in public since he condemned the riots last Saturday during the G20 summit in Argentina, will address the nation at the start of next week, his office said.

Friday night he visited a group of policemen in their barracks outside Paris.

Navigating to his biggest crisis since he was elected 18 months ago, Macron left him largely to his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, to face public turmoil and offer concessions.

But he is under pressure to speak more fully as his administration tries to regain the initiative after three weeks of unrest that is the worst since the 1968 student revolts.

The French retail federation on Friday put the cost of protests to its members at nearly $ 1 billion, according to the Financial Times.


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