Economy

Paris tense ahead of protests

Paris tense ahead of protests

A ring of steel surrounded the president's Elysee Palace - a key destination for the protesters - as police stationed trucks and reinforced metal barriers throughout the neighbourhood.

We will keep you up to date with developments throughout the day after last weekend's protests saw the capital's worst street unrest in more than half a century and France's young centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, faces the stiffest challenge of his term so far.

Macron's government offered a concession this week when it announced that it would scrap the planned rise in fuel tax.

The anti-government demonstrations are being led by the so-called "yellow vest" movement, named after the safety jackets carried by motorists in France, fuelled by anger over President Macron's tax reforms.

French students opposing changes in key high school tests protested again Friday, a day after footage widely shared on social media showed the arrest of protesting high school students outside Paris and prompted an outcry.

Police frisked people or searched bags every hundred meters or so throughout central Paris, and confiscated gas masks and protective goggles from Associated Press journalists.

Protesters who came to Paris from Normandy described seeing officers block yellow-vested passengers from boarding public transportation at stops along their route. At least two protesters were detained by police in central Amsterdam.

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Mr Macron's government had warned that the yellow vest protests had created a "monster" and the Paris actions would be hijacked by "radicalised and rebellious" crowds to become the most risky yet after three weeks of demonstrations.

Protestors stand in front of a fire on December 8, 2018 in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on the sideline of a demonstration against rising costs of living.

He said the protests had "created a monster" and vowed a zero-tolerance approach by police to violence.

Groups in yellow vests also gathered near the iconic Bastille plaza and a few other spots around Paris. The city subway system was shut down in the centre of town.

By mid-morning, 343 people had been detained in Paris, according to a Paris police spokeswoman. No injuries have been reported.

Authorities are deploying barricade-busting armored vehicles and 8,000 police in the capital alone; nationwide, some 89,000 security forces fanned out to deter or confront troublemakers expected at multiple protests.

As reporters on the ground in Paris noted on Saturday, beyond widespread calls for President Emmanuel Macron's resignation, just 18 months after his election, protesters voiced a range of demands from one end of the political spectrum to the other.

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The seven "yellow vest" invited to the meeting said they were satisfied from the discussion.

Macron himself, the target of the protesters' ire, has been largely invisible in recent days, leaving his prime minister and government to try to negotiate with protesters.

Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began on November 17. Christmas markets, national soccer matches and countless other events have been cancelled due to the protests.

Stores along the elegant Champs-Elysees Avenue and the posh Avenue Montaigne boarded up their windows as if bracing for a hurricane but the storm struck anyway Saturday, this time at the height of the holiday shopping season.

Two "Yellow vest" (Gilet Jaune) protesters hug each other during clashes with anti-riot police as part of a demonstration on November 30, 2018, near major European Union buildings in Brussels. 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.

Since then Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has floated the idea of a bonus payment for low-paid workers.

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