France’s Finance Minister Calls Protests a ‘Catastrophe’

Eiffel Tower and Louvre to be closed as Paris braces for more protests

Macron's government warned that Saturday's "yellow vest" protests in Paris will be hijacked by "radicalized and rebellious" crowds and become the most unsafe yet after three weeks of demonstrations.

According to the latest data of the French Interior Ministry, 1,723 people were hauled off during the protests.

The movement has no clear leaders, and past protests have attracted extremists who hurled projectiles at police.

French authorities deployed 89,000 police and gendarmes (65,000 the week before), with 8,000 of them in the capital and this time with orders to act quickly against any fighting in order to prevent destruction, and also to raise barricades.

Fierce winds and rain pummelled Paris overnight, complicating the effort to clean up tear gas canisters and debris left by protesters' fires and looting. Offshoot movements have emerged elsewhere, and yellow-vest protests were held Saturday in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In addition, from the early hours, 36 subway stations remained closed.

Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said that around 400 protesters were gathered in the area.

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to make a major announcement in the coming week after further violence from "yellow vest" protesters, the government said on Sunday.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux vowed that Macron's centrist administration would find solutions that took into account protesters' different grievances.

But the protesters themselves were giving the real reason for the violence - if anyone in Macron's government was listening.

A man walks past a damaged shop near Saint Lazare railway station in Paris on Sunday
A man walks past a damaged shop near Saint Lazare railway station in Paris on Sunday

"We are not black bloc [black clad anarchists], we are ordinary people voicing our anger", said a protester who did not want to be identified.

Official estimates put the number taking part in Saturday's protests at 136,000 people, including 10,000 in Paris.

His turnaround damaged his credibility with climate defenders and foreign investors and earned derision from U.S. President Donald Trump, an opponent of the 2015 Paris climate change accord that Macron has championed worldwide.

A police spokeswoman told reporters there were about 1,500 protesters on the Champs Elysees boulevard.

Macron's government had warned that the yellow vest protests had created a "monster" and that the Paris actions would be hijacked by radicalized and rebellious crowds and become the most unsafe yet after three weeks of demonstrations.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe appealed for restraint.

All of the city's top tourist attractions, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum, shut down for the day, fearing the kind of damage that had hit the Arc de Triomphe.

And that proposed gas tax was indeed what first prompted the "yellow vest" demonstrations across France, starting on November 17. Some protesters took aim at the French border with Italy, creating huge traffic jams on both sides of the border.

So far, four people have died and hundreds have been injured during the protests.

The movement began as a protest against a rise in duties on diesel, which is widely used by French motorists and has always been less heavily taxed than other types of fuel.

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