Police arrest 575 in Paris in latest anti-government protest

Marcus Newton
December 9, 2018

Thousands of protesters, who have faced tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades in clashes with police, are angry about planned hikes in diesel taxes.

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.

"I'm here for my 15-month-old son".

"I can't let him live in a country where the poor are exploited".

Despite the climbdown, the "yellow vests" continue to demand more concessions from the government, including lower taxes, a higher minimum wage, lower energy costs, better retirement benefits and even Macron's resignation.

Amid heightened tensions, police seized 28 petrol bombs and three homemade explosive devices Friday at an area blockaded by protesters in Montauban in southern France, a spokesman for the Tarn-et-Garonne prefecture told CNN. More than 250 people have been arrested.

Police were also searching people throughout zones of central Paris and confiscating goggles and gas masks from journalists who use them to protect against tear gas while covering demonstrations.

Some of those arrested were carrying hammers, slingshots and rocks.

The Eiffel Tower and Louvre are shut along with hundreds of stores and businesses, fearing damage after rioting last Saturday that saw 130 people injured and the worst urban unrest in Paris in decades. Top-flight football matches and concerts were cancelled.

But the protests were far smaller than last week's demonstrations, as police sought to preempt any chaos by arresting protesters and confiscating unsafe objects before demonstrations began.

"These past three weeks have produced a monster that its creators no longer control", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Friday, vowing "zero tolerance" towards those aiming to wreak further destruction.

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

Authorities deployed barricade-busting armoured vehicles and 8,000 police in the capital alone.

Prized Paris monuments and normally bustling shopping meccas were locked down Saturday at the height of the holiday shopping season.

The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid crowds", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens planning to visit Paris over the weekend to postpone their visit.

On Tuesday, Philippe announced the government would suspend planned fuel tax increases for at least six months to help defuse weeks of protests, marking the first U-turn by Macron's government since he came to power 18 months ago.

"Yellow vests, green vests - same anger", they chanted.

In the Netherlands, about 100 protesters gathered in a peaceful demonstration outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague. In their explanations of why they'd turned out to protest - some traveling five hours or more by bus from far corners of the country - most protesters talked about taxes, the cost of living and their dislike of Macron, whose name was a constant refrain: "Macron, where are you?" called some from a makeshift platform not far from the Arc de Triomphe.

Others have made it personal and say Macron must resign, still fuming over his decision to cut taxes for the highest earners shortly after sweeping to the presidency past year.

That decision is deeply unpopular with protesters and, along with a string of comments deemed insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to label Macron a "president of the rich".

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Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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