Paris looked more like the site of an impending attack than the City of Light as shops, restaurants, businesses and banks closed their doors and windows to protect against looters and in preparation for a fourth weekend- end of Yellow Vests (Yellow Vests) protests which, as feared, turned violent on Saturday.
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the opera, along with most other museums, public buildings and tourist attractions have been closed and performances canceled as a force of more than 8,000 police and armored vehicles have been patrolling since before the sunrise.
In Paris, many streets in the center were cordoned off and the police carried out stop and search operations throughout the city, confiscating masks and helmets used for protection against tear gas and any other object that could be used for attack the police or break windows. demonstrators again attacked the security forces.
The government has called on protesters as well as residents and visitors to stay home on what has been described as a ‘high risk’ day and the city looked eerily quiet in places at a time normally bustling with tourists and locals shopping and preparing for the end of the year celebrations.
Even the iconic window displays and bustling window displays that characterize Paris’ Christmas in its famous department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps have been extinguished.
On Saturday evening, the Paris police had carried out more than 700 “preventive arrests” for “participation in a crowd intended to prepare acts of violence against people or the destruction of property”, 1,000 people had been arrested and some 5,000 cars checked on the national network. road network, with several “violent individuals, carriers of dangerous objects, subsequently arrested”, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
“We are facing people who are not there to demonstrate but who are there to break things and we want to make sure that we don’t let them do what they want,” said Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, for explain the use of water cannons. and vehicles that fire tear gas canisters and clear barricades, rarely used in urban areas.
Despite police checks, part of the protection built by shops and offices was destroyed and several cars set on fire, mainly in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods – the 16th and 17th arrondissements – as the police played tag and match. mouse with small groups of violent protesters. around these and other central areas.
In the morning, the police evacuated the demonstrators with tear gas near the Champs-Elysées. According to the newspaper The Parisianseveral people, including two photographers from this daily, were injured by rubber bullets fired by the police.
Groups of yellow vests also blocked the “peripherique”, the main ring road around Paris, to the west of the city, until the police intervened to disperse them.
The protests are further instigated via social media by conspiracy theories and fake news, including claims that President Emmanuel Macron is “selling France” to the United Nations and that the World Bank and other international organizations are planning to let millions of migrants take control of France. .
The stories have been viewed millions of times.
Late Saturday afternoon, it was reported that the general level of damage in central Paris was significantly lower than last Saturday.
The protesters began as a peaceful movement against a proposed petrol and diesel hike and unexpectedly morphed into massive anti-government demonstrations expressing general anger and disillusionment with the government and the cost of living.
It became violent because of the participation of more aggressive activists and fringe elements known as “thugs”. (thugs and looters).
“The presence of the vandals increasingly seemed to cause a split in the movement, between the bulk of the Yellow Vests and the more violent anarchist elements which gradually grafted themselves on to it. The New York Times reported. “In some areas, the thugs – fit, determined young men dressed in black – were easily distinguishable from the Gilets Jaunes, often middle-aged men from the countryside. In at least one case, avenue Marceau, we could see yellow vests replacing the protective panels torn from the windows by the thugs.
“The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful, their anger directed at a president seen as distant and out of touch and a government seen as representing a political elite who have no idea how France from below – the less well-off – live”, according to The Guardian.
Negotiations with the government and control of the actions of the popular movement were hampered by its lack of formal and organized leadership. Government attempts to calm the crisis, including scrapping the fuel tax and pledging to overhaul the complex tax system, have done little to ease the volatile situation.
Macron has not spoken publicly since announcing to everyone’s surprise the end of the fuel tax on Wednesday. Government officials said he would not address the country over the weekend as he did not want to escalate the situation.
“It is clear that we have underestimated the need for people to be heard,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on Sunday.
Violent protests also erupted in yellow vests demonstrations in Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, Dijon and Toulouse during the weekend.
Meanwhile, inspired by French actions, protests also broke out in Brussels where more than 400 people were arrested on Saturday.
Protesters threw rocks and firecrackers and damaged shops and cars as they tried to reach government buildings, according to Reuters, as police used water cannons and tear gas to drive them away from the headquarters of the European Union and the neighboring Belgian government district.