Paris in lockdown as France braces for new anti-Macron riots

Paris riots

A worker clears debris in a bank as a man watches through smashed windows in Paris Sunday Dec. 9 2018

Police were earlier searching people throughout zones of central Paris and confiscating goggles and gas masks from journalists who use them to protect against tear gas while covering demonstrations.

A crowd of "yellow vest" protesters is marching down the Champs-Elysees avenue in central Paris surrounded by exceptional police security amid fears of new violence.

Thick plumes of black smoke from fires could be seen rising high into the sky over the city.

Prized Paris monuments and normally bustling shopping meccas locked down and tens of thousands of police took position around France to face protesters angry at President Emmanuel Macron and France's high taxes.

Dominic Blaise, a 57-year-old aeronautics engineer from the Paris suburbs, came the demonstration with his son. "But I'm here to support my son because he has a lot of trouble getting by and I think all parents should do the same to support their kids, because next generations will be in a lot of difficulties", he said. "I'm not so bad off because I have a good salary, I have enough to live".

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

Around 100 people were arrested on Saturday in the Belgian capital Brussels during copycat yellow vest demonstrations rocking neighbouring France, police said.

A national police spokesperson said officers stationed at train stations around the country are under orders to verify all passengers and turn away any carrying equipment that could be used to "cause damage to people or property".

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

Shopkeepers and café owners near the Arc de Triomphe used plywood to board up their windows.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests who urged people not to join the protests.

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After the meeting a movement spokesman, Christophe Chalencon, said the premier had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president".

"We can not take the risk when we know the threat", Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, according to Reuters.

Cyril, a garbage truck driver in Normandy who earns 1,430 euros ($1,625) a month, said Macron's mistake was trying to reform France too quickly.

After two weekends of violence in Paris that made the authorities look powerless to secure their capital, police went into overdrive Saturday to keep a lid on unrest. Dozens of streets were closed to traffic, while the Eiffel Tower and museums such as the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay and the Centre Pompidou were shut.

Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world's most visited cities.

The "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) movement sprang up in late October against increases in fuel taxes announced as part of President Emmanuel Macron's efforts to pay for clean energy initiatives.

But the yellow vests, many of whom who have become increasingly radicalised, are holding out for more.

And the hardline CGT union, hoping to capitalise on the movement, has called for rail and Metro strikes next Friday to demand immediate wage and pension increases.

Macron, whose popularity is at a low ebb according to polls, has been forced into making the first major U-turn of his presidency by abandoning a fuel tax.

But the policy, along with hikes on pensioners' taxes, cuts in housing allowances and a string of comments deemed insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to label him a "president of the rich".

High taxes in France have been the source of discontent and unrest among French residents.

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