Paris on lockdown for gilets jaunes protests

Paris on lockdown for gilets jaunes protests

French riot police have fired tear gas and clashed with "yellow vest" protesters in central Paris during the latest wave of demonstrations against the high cost of living that have shaken President Emmanuel Macron's authority.

Police are 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 8,000 officers and 12 armoured vehicles have been deployed in Paris alone, and almost 90,000 in the country as a whole.

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

Large groups of people were heading to eastern Paris, where a march against climate change was under way.

Clashes have broken out between "yellow vest" protesters and police in the port neighbourhood of Marseille, in the south of France.

"Now we await Mr Macron".

Shops, museums, the Eiffel Tower and many metro stations were closed, while top-flight football matches and concerts have been cancelled. He said no students were injured.

About 89,000 police were deployed across the country.

Rows of helmeted, thickly protected riot police blocked the demonstrators' passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the heart of presidential power.

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Some protestors have also begun to discuss other issues facing France, which as the United Nations migration pact that is set to be signed in Marrakech on Monday.

After two weekends of violence in Paris that made the authorities look powerless to secure their capital, police went into overdrive on Saturday to keep a lid on unrest.

But efforts to negotiate have gone nowhere, not least because the movement's purported leaders have largely declined invitations to talks - some because they were threatened by other "yellow vests".

Saturday's march, which has gathered 2000 participants in Paris alone, wants France to reach the goal set during the 2015 Paris accords to limit global warming to "well below" a rise of 2°C and to pursue efforts for the 1.5° goal as the UN's COP24 conference is still taking place in Poland. Subway stations in the centre of town were shut down. By mid-afternoon, more than 700 people had been stopped and questioned, and more than 400 were being held in custody, according to a Paris police spokeswoman.

But his climbdown on fuel taxes - meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure for a leader who had prided himself on not giving into street protests.

Jan Dijkgraaf, editor of a Dutch "resistance newspaper" is calling for peaceful protests in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. "We know that the violent people are only strong because they hide themselves within the yellow vests, which hampers the security forces", he said Saturday.

Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began November 17. "Some ultra-violent people want to take part".

Meanwhile, Macron seemingly has gone missing as his government tries to curb the chaos caused by his unpopular gas-tax plan.

Paris police, fearing that radical protesters could turn street furniture and construction materials into makeshift weapons, on Friday were removing all glass containers, railings and construction machines in high-risk areas.

The national Federation of French markets said that Christmas markets have been "strongly impacted" and that its members registered "an average fall of their estimated figures between 30 and 40 percent since the beginning of the yellow vest movement".

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