Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Eiffel Tower, Louvre close over 'significant violence' during protests

Laurie Garrett Eiffel Tower, Louvre close over 'significant violence' during protests
Jeannette Daniel | 08 December, 2018, 10:53

The national federation of French markets said its members registered "an average fall of their estimated figures between 30 and 40 per cent since the beginning of the movement of the yellow vests".

Responding to the images, socialist leader Olivier Faure tweeted: "Whatever wrong was done, nothing justifies this filmed humiliation of minors".

The students were detained by police in the Paris suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie, in unrest that has spread to dozens of schools during three weeks of anti-government demonstrations. Shops, schools and some other public venues are set to close over fears of clashes between police and the protesters.

"According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said during a Friday news conference. Now the demands of the "yellow vest" movement - named for the fluorescent safety gear that French motorists keep in their cars - is pressing for a wider range of benefits from the government to help workers, retirees and students. They are being watched over by armed police officers whose faces are hidden by ski masks.

Although the students are demanding an end to testing overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements, they have seized on the momentum of the ongoing "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron.

They argue the president is out of touch with ordinary people and many are calling on him to resign.

Farmers have called for demonstrations every day next week, while two lorry driver unions plan an indefinite sympathy strike from Sunday night.

Political leaders from across the spectrum have appealed for calm, after four people died in accidents during protests and hundreds have been injured.

But many "yellow vests" have urged fresh protests this weekend, claiming a series of of government concessions do not go far enough.

An interior ministry official told AFP that authorities were bracing for "significant violence" Saturday, based on indications that protesters on both the far right and far left are planning to converge on Paris.

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In addition to the closure of the Eiffel Tower, many shops and museums across France, including the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay and the Grand Palais, will keep their doors shut on Saturday for safety reasons. Already dozens of tax offices across the country have been attacked and mass protests are planned in Paris and other cities.

The move is likely to cost thousands of euros in lost revenue as tourists and locals stay clear for a second holiday weekend in a row.

Six Ligue 1 football games, one involving Paris Saint-Germain, have been postponed.

Students attend a demonstration in Paris on Friday, nearly a week after protests led to the worst street violence in the capital in decades.

The seven "yellow vest" invited to the meeting said they were satisfied from the discussion.

"We want to bring our support towards this movement which will allow us to be heard by the government", said one demonstrator.

But Mr Macron's office has said he will stick to his decision to cut a "fortune tax" on high-earners, abolished a year ago in a bid to boost investment.

Macron, whose approval ratings are down to just 23 percent, will speak about the issue "early next week", Richard Ferrand, a senior MP from the president's party, said late Thursday.

That decision is deeply unpopular with protesters and together with a series of comments, viewed as insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to dub Mr Macron a "president of the rich".

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