France is set to deploy tens of thousands of police and gendarmes across the country on Saturday, including 8,000 in Paris, to deal with a fifth weekend of Yellow Vest protests – just days after three people were killed and 13 injured after a mass shooting in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
Paris police chief Michel Delpuech said authorities are on watch for “violent groups” infiltrating the protests, and that riot officers will protect landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe and the presidential palace, reports Reuters.
“We need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios,” Delpuech told RTL radio, who added that he doesn’t expect businesses in the capital to suffer the same level of disruption as they have over the past three weeks, when major stores and hotels suffered a dramatic drop in business as tourists avoided the area.
This weekend’s Yellow Vest protests, nicknamed “Acte V” – mark the fifth week of anti-government outrage which began over opposition to an announced fuel-tax designed to pay for climate change policies.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said it was time for the Yellow Vests to tone down their protests and acknowledge that they had achieved their goals after French President Emmanuel Macron rolled out a series of economic and tax incentives, including a minimum wage hike, no tax on overtime pay, tax-free year-end bonuses, and a six month delay to the fuel tax.
While most French people polled by Odoxa said they found Macron’s proposal “satisfactory,” 59% of those polled say they were “not convinced” by the measures.
54% of those surveyed said the Yellow Vest protests should continue.
Many of the Yellow Vests have flat-out rejected Macron’s proposals, according to European-Views.
He is trying to do a pirouette to land back on his feet but we can see that he isn’t sincere, that it’s all smoke and mirrors,” said Jean-Marc, a car mechanic as a gathering of some 150 Yellow Vests in the southern town of Le Boulou.
“It’s just window dressing, for the media, some trivial measures, it almost seems like a provocation,” said Thierry, 55, a bicycle mechanic.
“All this is cinema, it doesn’t tackle the problems of substance. “We’re really wound up, we’re going back to battle,” he told AFP before taking part in blocking the Boulou turnpike on the French-Spanish border.
“Maybe if Macron had made this speech three weeks ago, it would have calmed the movement, but now it’s too late. For us, this speech is nonsense,” said Gaetan, 34, one of the “Rennes Lapins Jaunes” (Yellow Rabbits of Rennes).
One 35-year-old French official said that Macron “is being held hostage so he drops some crumbs.”
Meanwhile, over 700 police officers were redeployed to Strasbourg for a manhunt following Tuesday’s mass shooting at a popular Christmas market. The gunman was shot dead in an exchange of gunfire Thursday evening. Castaner said it was time for the yellow vests to give police officers a break.
“I’d rather have the police force doing their real job, chasing criminals and combating the terrorism threat, instead of securing roundabouts where a few thousand people keep a lot of police busy,” said the interior minister.
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