Clashes Reported in France’s 4th Week of Violent Protests

French police fired tear gas Saturday at yellow-vested protesters on the Champs Elysees. The demonstrators are protesting France’s high cost of living.

Police say at least 1,500 demonstrators have taken to Parisian streets and French police detained more than 343 people Saturday, according to the Associated Press, amid exceptional security.

So far Paris police have deployed tear gas on protesters trying to march to the presidential palace.

Bracing for a fourth week of violent protests, France closed the Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks and mobilized tens of thousands of security forces.

Many shops in Paris were boarded up before Saturday’s planned protests to avoid being smashed or looted, and police cordoned off many of the city’s broad boulevards.

More than 89,000 police are being deployed nationwide, an increase from 65,000 last weekend, when protests over rising taxes turned into a riot that left more than 130 people injured.

Police removed any materials from the streets that could be used as weapons or projectiles during the demonstrations, including street furniture at outdoor cafes.

President Emmanuel Macron made an unannounced visit Friday night to a group of anti-riot security officers outside Paris to thank them for their work.

Since the unrest began in November in response to a sharp increase in diesel fuel taxes, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

While Macron has since abandoned the fuel tax hike, protesters have made new demands to address other economic issues hurting workers, retirees and students.

Government officials are concerned a repeat of last week’s violence would weaken the economy and raise doubts about the government’s survival.

Officials are also concerned about far-right, anarchist and anti-capitalist groups like Black Bloc that have mimicked the “yellow vest” movement.

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 weeks of protests have exposed intense resentment among non-city residents who feel that Macron, a former investment banker, is out of touch with struggling middle-class and blue-collar workers.

Movement spreads

The yellow vest movement is crossing borders, with demonstrations planned in neighboring Belgium and in the Netherlands. 

Neither country has proposed a hike in fuel tax, the catalyst for the massive and destructive demonstrations in France in recent weeks. 

Hundreds of police officers are being mobilized in Brussels Saturday, where yellow vest protesters last week clashed with police and torched two police vehicles. More than 70 people were detained. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

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