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08 December 2018, 06:27 | Hattie Nash
France gears up to face new riots; Paris shuts down
Some of the most famous tourist sites in Paris plan to close on Saturday as the French capital braces for a violent day of protest for the third consecutive weekend.
Police have said more than 350 protesters have already been detained on Saturday morning - mainly preventive arrests as people arrived at Paris mainline stations.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that 89,000 security forces will be mobilized on Saturday, with 8,000 policemen deployed in Paris alone, as well as a dozen armored vehicles.
The "yellow vest" movement opposed fuel tax rises but ministers say it's been hijacked by "ultra-violent" protesters.
Hundreds of shops in Paris planned to shut their doors as well, preferring to lose business during the key holiday shopping period rather than have their windows smashed in and their merchandise looted, as happened to many Paris stores last Saturday when an anti-government protest over rising taxes turned into a riot. "Take care of Paris on Saturday because Paris belongs to all the French people".
Demonstrations at some 280 schools against stricter university entrance requirements have added to the feeling of discontent in France amid the continuing "yellow vest" protests. He said none of the students were injured.
Blue armoured vehicles beneath the Arc de Triomphe and rows of riot police blocked the demonstrators' passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue towards the heart of presidential power.
Despite the climbdown, the "yellow vests" continue to demand more concessions from the government, including lower taxes, higher salaries, cheaper energy costs, better retirement provisions and even Macron's resignation.
Why are there protests in France?
Police used pepper spray on a small group of men who threw street signs, bottles and other objects as they tried to break through a barricade near the European Parliament.
Of these, about 8,000 were deployed in Paris to avoid a repeat of last Saturday's mayhem, when rioters torched cars and looted shops off the famed Champs Elysees boulevard, and defaced the Arc de Triomphe with graffiti directed at President Emmanuel Macron.
Shops, museums, the Eiffel Tower and many metro stations were closed as much of the city-centre went on effective lockdown.
Interior Minister Christopher Castaner said that he expects radical elements to be present in Paris and that "the past three weeks have given birth to a monster that has escaped its creators".
The French government has pledged a range of measures to end weeks of demonstrations over taxes and declining standards of living.
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Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests who urged people not to join the protests. He called on peaceful protesters not to get mixed up with "hooligans".
But his climbdown on fuel taxes - meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure for a leader who had prided himself on not giving into street protests.
Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began.
An apolitical movement with members who vote for parties of various stripes, the "yellow vests" have won support from everyone from far-right leader Marine Le Pen to far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Paris police, fearing that radical protesters could turn street furniture and construction materials into makeshift weapons, on Friday were removing all glass containers, railings and construction machines in high-risk areas.
That decision is deeply unpopular with protesters and together with a series of comments, viewed as insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to dub Mr Macron a "president of the rich".
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