Paris fears new protests, violence, despite Macron's retreat

Paris fears new protests, violence, despite Macron's retreat

The anxiety of the French authorities is evident in view of the prospect of another day of violence in the heart of the capital which is still under the shock of last weekend's riots.

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

The Eiffel Tower will also be closed on Saturday due to the protests, the site's operator SETE said, warning that it could not ensure security for visitors.

The protests began last month with motorists upset over the fuel tax hike, but have grown to encompass a range of complaints, with protesters claiming that Macron's government doesn't care about the problems of ordinary people.

Around 200 French high schools were blocked or disrupted Thursday by students protesting a raft of education overhauls, on a fourth day of action called to coincide with anti-government demonstrations which have rocked the country in recent weeks. But they have ballooned into a broad challenge to Macron's government.

A small union representing police administrators called for a strike Saturday, which could further complicate security measures.

On Saturday, French police cracked down on protesters around the famous Champs-Elysees in Paris with tear gas and water cannons. A police spokeswoman said Thursday an investigation is underway into that incident, and that police are examining other videos shared online for possible violations.

Mass protests have repeatedly forced French presidents into U-turns, something Macron had vowed to avoid in his quest to "transform" the French economy and state.

One of the main measures implemented by the French government to boost business and investment after Macron's election a year ago was to set a flat tax of 30 percent on all capital income and remove the top marginal band of payroll tax. The price hikes are the result of France's effort to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in the next 12 years-but the reaction from protesters suggests intense anger across the country as low-income households have bore the burden of the green initiative, adding to the untenable cost of living for many, while the rich have been given generous tax cuts.

"No tax merits putting the unity of the nation in danger", he said.

The rioting in Paris has anxious tourists, prompted the cancellation of four French league soccer matches this weekend around the country and damaged the local economy at the height of the holiday shopping season.

The "yellow vest" protests began November 17 over the government plan to raise taxes on diesel and gasoline, but by the time Macron bowed to three weeks of violence and abandoned the new fuel tax, protesters were demanding much more. It was other players who would try to influence things and if they didn't like how something was being done, they didn't go to the manager, they went to the president.

Clement Rozey, manager of a motorcycle shop in western Paris, spent two days and two nights cleaning up after he watched powerless as a group of thugs smashed his shop windows and emptied his shelves.

"If a measure we've taken doesn't work, we're not stupid, you see, we're going to change it", he said. He has boarded up the store and is among those staying closed on Saturday.

He has refrained from speaking publicly about the protests and has largely remained in his palace residence.

"We need taxes, but they are not properly redistributed", protester Thomas Tricottet told BFM television.

But violent troublemakers who pillage and riot?

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