paris battens down the hatches ahead of third yellow vests protest
Last Updated : GMT 07:25:12
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Last Updated : GMT 07:25:12
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Paris battens down the hatches ahead of third 'Yellow Vests' protest

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Arab Today, arab today Paris battens down the hatches ahead of third 'Yellow Vests' protest

The Yellow Vest movement has seen protests at suburban roundabouts
Paris - DPA

The French government is organizing a massive deployment of security forces for Saturday, when "Yellow Vest" fuel tax protesters are set to rally in Paris for the third week running.

With top officials alternately calling for calm and warning of potential violence, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday 89,000 members of the security forces would be positioned around the country.

Some 8,000 are to be deployed in Paris, backed up by "a dozen" gendarmerie armoured cars, Philippe told TF1 television.

That was "much more" than last week, when rioters fought police for control of upmarket streets around the Arc de Triomphe, the premier said.

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday let it be known that hikes in petrol and diesel taxes due to take effect next year, which sparked the protest movement, would be cancelled outright.

But prominent protesters have insisted that they will descend on Paris anyway, and members of the leaderless movement are now speaking of wider demands including broader tax cuts and salary raises.

Eric Drouet, one of the initiators of the protests, told broadcaster BFMTV on Wednesday evening that "everybody wants to go" to the Elysee Palace, Macron's heavily guarded office and residence.

"I never said that I wanted to go to the Elysee to smash everything, but just to be heard," Drouet clarified in a Facebook video Thursday.

Authorities are taking no chances after last week's protests saw more than 100 people injured, more than 400 arrested, enormous quantities of tear gas fired and the Arc de Triomphe vandalized.

The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and several other museums, as well as the Opera and the Paris catacombs will all be closed on Saturday.

France is "faced with people who are not there to demonstrate, they're there to smash things up, and we're going to make sure they're not left free to do that," Philippe warned.

Former conservative prime minister Alain Juppe on Thursday added his voice to pleas from Philippe and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner that would-be protesters stay away from Paris.

"To call on people to go onto the streets in the current circumstances is to make everyone run a grave risk," Juppe warned on Twitter.

Macron's predecessor as president, Socialist Francois Hollande, also appealed for calm, writing on Twitter: "Only dialogue and compromise can calm matters."

Opinion polls have shown widespread public approval for the Yellow Vests, named after the high-visibility road safety tops that have become the symbol and uniform of the movement.

Macron's own satisfaction rating meanwhile continues to hit lows in the polls, at only 23 per cent in an Elabe poll for Les Echos newspaper and Radio Classique published on Thursday.

The president has not directly addressed the public since Saturday's riots, leaving Philippe to explain the government's climbdowns.

The Yellow Vest movement has seen protests at suburban roundabouts and blocked roads since mid-November.

It is strongest in provincial towns and the countryside, where people are most dependent on cars.

Meanwhile, as secondary school pupils also took to the streets, the French left reacted angrily to a video showing the mass arrest of more than 140 young people near a school after what police said was vandalism in a town near Paris.

The video, widely spread on social media, showed dozens of youths kneeling, with their hands on their heads or tied behind their backs, as security forces stood around.

"What are the authorities seeking if not rage in return?" former socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, who has since founded another left-wing party, wrote on Twitter.

"Whatever they are accused of, nothing justifies this filmed and commented humiliation of minors," Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure tweeted.

A police source told dpa that the video was authentic and showed the arrests in Mantes-La-Jolie near Paris. Newspaper Le Monde and news agency AFP also said the video was authentic. 

Broadcaster BFMTV reporting that almost 100 secondary schools in the Paris region were affected by protests or disturbances on Thursday.

Pupils' grievances include school reforms and a new online platform for allocating college places, newspaper Le Parisien reported, while some also wished to show support for the Yellow Vests.

French farmers have also threatened separate protest action next week.

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