While France was among key supporters of “democratic protests” in Ukraine’s Kiev in 2014 as well as has repeatedly voiced concern over crackdwons on illegal rallies in Russia and Iran, it appeared that the French government is not ready to employ the same “democratic approach” towards protests in its own country.
The weekly Yellow Vest anti-government protests are to return on December 8th prompting fears of further violence from both protestors and government security forces.
So far, four people have died over the last several weeks of protests across France – including an 80-year-old woman who died of shock after a police tear-gas canister was launched into her apartment window as she was trying to close it. Over 400 people were arrested in last weekend’s violent protests, while more than 130 were injured.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that 89,000 police officers will be on duty throughout the country and armored vehicles will be deployed in the capital. In comparison, for the December 1st protests 65,000 police officers were deployed around the country.
A video shows how policemen are dealing with students wearing yellow vests to protest:
Police have urged shops and restaurants on Paris’s Champs-Elysees to shut and some museums will also be closed. The Eiffel Tower will also be closed. The move is likely to cost businesses thousands of euros in lost revenue as tourists and locals alike stay clear during a second holiday weekend in a row. During the first two weekend protests on November 17th and 24th businesses and museums did not stop their work.
A Paris Saint-Germain football game against Montpellier scheduled for December 8th was also postponed after a request by Paris police, and some schools near the Champs-Elysees have called off Saturday classes.
Philippe said that 8,000 police would be deployed in Paris alongside a dozen armoured vehicles for crowd control as part of “exceptional” measures to contain the risk of violence. He also reiterated his appeal for calm, saying in a prime-time TV interview that the government was ready to consider “any measure which would allow us to boost spending power.”
The French Government under President Emmanuel Macron walked back on their hardline policy of increasing taxes on fuel. An increase scheduled for Jan. 1, was “scrapped for the year 2019” in its entirety, Environment Minister Francois de Rugy announced on BFM TV, in an about-turn for the government.
Despite that the yellow vest movement shows no signs of stopping the protests.
French newspaper Le Figaro said that French intelligence services have reported to the Elysee Palace – the official residence of President Macron, in light of “calls to kill” and “carry arms to attack” government officials, parliamentarians and police. Anonymous French officials were also cited as saying that “They are putschists. We are in a coup attempt.”
Le Figaro further that Saturday’s demonstrations may involve unprecedented violence, as it may include “a hard core radicalized” element, from “both the extreme right and extreme left.”
The newspaper also cited an anonymous source close the Macron, who said that “If there are ten deaths this weekend, it is not sure that we can keep the Minister of the Interior.”
The “yellow vests” have also motivated other protests, in particular students demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements.
Nearly 280 high schools were disrupted, 45 of which were blocked, in protests across France on Thursday, with more than 700 students detained by police, an unnamed interior ministry source told AFP.