Ambulance workers hold flares outside the National Assembly in Paris, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. Ambulance workers took to the streets and gathered close to the National Assembly in downtown Paris to complain about changes to working conditions as French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is holding crisis talks with representatives of major political parties in the wake of violent anti-government protests that have rocked Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Eiffel Tower to be closed as Paris braces for more protests

Since the unrest began on Nov. 17 in reaction to a sharp increase in diesel taxes, four people have been killed

France was mobilizing tens of thousands of police officers and closing landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre as authorities warned that anti-government protests on Saturday could be even more violent than the ones that have crippled the country for weeks.

“According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow,” Interior minister Christophe Castaner told a press conference on Friday. “Some ultra-violent people want to take part.”

READ MORE: France bracing for more protests despite retreat on taxes

Authorities say 8,000 police will fan out across Paris, equipped with a dozen barricade-busting armoured vehicles that could be used for the first time in a French urban area since 2005.

“These vehicles can be very useful to protect buildings,” said Stanislas Gaudon, the head of police union Alliance. “And in case they set up barricades, we can quickly clear out the space and let our units progress.”

At the height of the festive shopping season, many Paris store owners were boarding up their shop fronts and have said they will remain shut Saturday for fear they may be in the line of any unrest between protesters and police.

Meanwhile, Paris police, fearing protesters could turn street furniture and construction site material into makeshift weapons, were removing all the glass containers, railings and building machines set up in high-risk areas including the world-renowned Champs-Elysees avenue, which would normally be packed with tourists and shoppers on a Saturday in early December.

The Nicolas wine chain, one of the biggest retailers in the country, cancelled all its wine tasting sessions scheduled for Saturday.

“It’s with an immense sadness that we’ll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority,” Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said. “Take care of Paris on Saturday because Paris belongs to all the French people.”

Across the country some 89,000 police will be mobilized, up from 65,000 last weekend when more than 130 people were injured and over 400 were arrested as protests degenerated into the worst street violence to hit Paris in decades.

Authorities also have cancelled six French league soccer matches around the country.

READ MORE: Trudeau avoids confrontation with Saudi crown prince, Putin during G20 summit

Since the unrest began on Nov. 17 in reaction to a sharp increase in diesel taxes, four people have been killed in accidents.

The protesters are collectively referred to as the “yellow vest” movement, in reference to the fluorescent safety outfit French motorists keep in their cars.

Amid the unrest, some of the protesters, French union officials and prominent politicians across the political spectrum have urged calm especially as French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike that triggered the movement. However, protesters’ demands have now expanded to other issues hurting French workers, retirees and students.

Students opposing an education reform protested again Friday, a day after footage widely shared on social media showing the arrest of high school students protesting outside Paris prompted an outcry. Trade unions and far-left parties have lashed out at perceived police brutality.

The images, filmed Thursday at Mantes-la-Jolie, showed a group of students on their knees with their hands behind their head. They are being watched over by armed police officers whose faces are hidden by ski masks.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner said that 151 people were arrested in the small town, adding that some of them carried weapons. He said none of the students were injured.

The rioting has also had an economic impact at the height of the holiday shopping season. Rampaging groups last weekend threw cobblestones through Paris storefronts and looted valuables in some of the city’s richest neighbourhoods.

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 per cent since the beginning of the movement of the yellow vests.”

In addition to the closure of the Eiffel Tower, many shops and museums across France, including the Louvre, Orsay Museum and the Grand Palais, will keep their doors shut on Saturday for safety reasons.

“We need to protect culture sites in Paris but also everywhere in France,” Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Touring exhibit from Royal B.C. Museum highlights First Nations languages

Qualicum Beach Museum will be home to a variety of interactive stations

‘Dirty Money’ in Nanoose Bay: Dr. Peter German to speak at ElderCollege

‘This is an evolving study’: presenting up-to-date information on B.C. organized crime

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to campaign in Port Alberni

Singh joins Courtenay-Alberni candidate for rally to kick off final weekend before election

Winter preparation underway for mid-Island highways

Drivers reminded to ready vehicles for changing conditions

Qualicum Beach council discusses helping out Orca Place residents

Town considers offer of temporary jobs in the future

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

Everything you need to know before getting the flu shot

Island pharmacist shares concerns, recommendations before flu season hits

‘Sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after pot legalization

Statistics Canada says 541 people were charged under the federal Cannabis Act between Oct. 17, 2018 and the end of the year

Fewer people prescribed opioids in B.C., but other provinces lack data: doctors

Patients who began taking opioids were prescribed smaller doses for shorter duration

Electric cello, stolen from vehicle in Williams Lake, returned to U.S. owner

Rita Rice of Texas said she and her husband had given up hope of ever seeing it again

Vancouver Island’s West Coast going wild about cycling

Ongoing project will tie Tofino and Ucluelet together with a paved cycling trail

Drop, cover and hold on: Thousands of British Columbians to take part in earthquake drill

This year’s drill comes as scientists announce discovery of ‘stormquakes,’ an earthquake and hurricane

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Frustration and pride in Canada after a year of legal pot

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

Most Read