31,000 'yellow vests' protesting across France, 700 detained: Minister

Gladys Abbott
December 9, 2018

French authorities will close dozens of museums, tourism sites and shops on Saturday, including the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, fearing a recurrence of last week's violence in Paris, officials said on Thursday.

The "yellow vest" movement was named after the safety jackets French motorists are required to keep in their vehicles, which the protesters wear at demonstrations.

The French government's plan was to prevent a repeat of the December 2 rioting that damaged the Arc de Triomphe, devastated central Paris and tarnished the country's global image.

As the day of news wrapped up Trump sent another message calling it a "very sad day & night in Paris" and proposing one more time to abolish the "ridiculous and extremely expensive" Paris agreement.

Rows of riot police blocked the demonstrators' passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the heart of presidential power, firing tear gas and pushing them back with shields.

Protesters who came to Paris from Normandy described seeing officers block yellow-vested passengers from boarding at stops along their route.

About 31,000 people joined the "Yellow Vests" movement in protest across France around midday, junior Interior Minister Laurent Nunez said in an interview with France 2.

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.

Footage, which has sparked condemnation by politicians, shows the pupils on the ground as riot police yell orders at them.

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

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Crowds were also gathering across town around the Bastille plaza. Subway stations in the city centre closed and the US embassy warned citizens to avoid all protest areas.

About 100 were detained, many for carrying risky objects like fireworks or clothing that could be used as protection in clashes with police. No injuries have been reported.

Almost 90,000 officers were deployed countrywide in anticipation of clashes, including 8,000 in Paris where 12 armoured vehicles were also utilised.

Authorities say the protests have been hijacked by far-right and anarchist elements bent on violence and stirring up social unrest, in a direct affront to Macron and the security forces.

Police said they had already detained some 354 people by Saturday morning ahead of the demonstrations.

Mr Macron himself has been largely invisible in recent days, leaving his prime minister and government to try to negotiate with protesters.

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 disrupted by the protests.

Some stores along the Champs-Elysee had boarded up their windows with plywood, making the neighbourhood appear like it was bracing for a hurricane. Police removed any materials from the streets that could be used as weapons, especially at construction sites in high-risk areas.

A demonstrator gestures in front of placards, one of which says 'Frexit auto dictature!' during the demonstration of the yellow vests at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris France. 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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