With protesters planning to converge in the Elysee Palace in Paris on Saturday, French authorities are preparing to deploy 8,000 additional officers in Paris and 89,000 nationwide.
While Emmanuel Macron’s government has abandoned a controversial fuel tax hike, thousands of protesters are still planning on marching on the presidential residence on Saturday.
“Saturday will be the final outcome,” Yellow Vest spokesman Eric Drouet said on Thursday. “Saturday is the Elysee, we all would like to go to the Elysee.”
With government officials reportedly fearing a “coup attempt,” the state has dramatically expanded police presence, hoping to avoid a repeat of the violence and destruction that rocked the capital last weekend. Over 130 people were injured and more than 400 arrested on December 1. Four people, including an elderly woman, died as rioters clashed with battalions of riot police.
As the interior ministry warned of an emboldened extremist fringe, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe promised that this weekend’s upcoming riots would be handled with “exceptional means.”
“We are facing people who are not here to protest, but to smash and we want to have the means to not give them a free rein,” Philippe told TF1’s evening news show on Tueday.
On the street, that means that more than 75 police units will be deployed in Paris, compared to the 50 sent out last weekend. Officers have also been instructed to directly engage with protesters, prompting fears of violence above and beyond that of last weekend.
Video purportedly filmed last Saturday showed officers chasing down and beating one protester to a pulp, after rioters had pelted officers with rocks and fireworks at the Arc de Triomphe earlier that day.
According to French media, Philippe will also deploy ten armored vehicles to the streets of Paris. Such a deployment has not occurred since riots broke out in Paris’ suburbs in 2005.
Unconfirmed images from social media also appear to show the French army moving vehicles – some of them armored – towards Paris.
Paris police have urged shopkeepers along the Champs-Elysees to close on Saturday, and dozens of museums and cultural sites will also be shut for the weekend, including the iconic Eiffel Tower.
Against the backdrop of rising violence, President Macron’s approval rating has fallen to a new low of 23 percent, according to a poll taken last week. Another poll taken this week found that 66 percent of French agree with the protesters. At least three left-wing parties have agreed to discuss a no-confidence vote against Macron’s government on Monday.
While the protests were sparked by the planned fuel tax hike, they have since evolved into a wider movement against his Europhile policies and economic reforms, which include tax breaks for businesses coupled with cuts to pensioners’ benefits.
“The revolt is not just about the gas prices,” French political commentator Jean Bricmont told RT. “It’s a general revolt against the policy of the government.”
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