Wednesday 12 December 2018

France deploys 65,000 security forces amid fears of more riots

Riots: Trash bins burn as youths clash with police in Marseille. Photo: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Riots: Trash bins burn as youths clash with police in Marseille. Photo: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Angela Charlton in Paris

France will deploy more than 65,000 security forces amid fears of fresh rioting at protests in Paris and around the nation.

Police unions and local authorities held emergency meetings on how to handle the weekend protests, while disparate groups of protesters did the same thing, sharing their plans on social networks and chat groups.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told senators yesterday that the government will deploy "exceptional" security measures for the protests in Paris and elsewhere, with additional new forces on top of the 65,000 security officers already in place.

Some "yellow vest" protesters, members of France's leading unions and prominent politicians across the political spectrum called for calm after the worst rioting in Paris in decades last weekend.

Museums, theatres and shops in Paris announced they would close tomorrow as a precaution - including the city's famed Eiffel Tower.

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, part of his plans to combat global warming, but protesters' demands have now expanded to other issues hurting French workers, retirees and students.

In a move questioned by both critics and supporters, the president himself has disappeared from public view.

Scores of protesting teenagers clashed with police at a high school west of Paris yesterday, according to French news reports, as part of nationwide student protests over new university admissions procedures and rising fees.

Drivers wearing their signature yellow safety vests continued to block roads around France, now demanding broader tax cuts and wider government social benefits.

A small union representing police administrators called for a strike on Saturday, which could further complicate security measures.

French police have come under criticism for failing to prevent damage to the Arc de Triomphe and stores along the famed Champs-Élysées in Paris last weekend - as well as for violence against protesters.

Videos on social media of police beating protesters at a Burger King near the Champs-Élysées have stoked the anger.

A police spokeswoman said that an investigation is under way into that incident and police are examining other videos online for possible violations.

Irish Independent

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