Alwaght- French authorities are preparing to deploy 8,000 additional officers in Paris and 89,000 nationwide to counter massive protests.
While Emmanuel Macron’s government has abandoned a controversial fuel tax hike, thousands of protesters are still planning on marching on the presidential residence, the Elysee Palace, on Saturday.
“Saturday will be the final outcome,” Yellow Vest spokesman Eric Drouet said on Thursday. “Saturday is the Elysee, we all would like to go to the Elysee.”
With government officials reportedly fearing a “coup attempt,” the state has dramatically expanded police presence, hoping to avoid a repeat of the violence and destruction that rocked the capital last weekend. Over 130 people were injured and more than 400 arrested on December 1. Four people, including an elderly woman, died as rioters clashed with battalions of riot police.
As the interior ministry warned of an emboldened extremist fringe, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe promised that this weekend’s upcoming riots would be handled with “exceptional means.”
According to French media, Philippe will also deploy “a dozen armored vehicles” to the streets of Paris. Such a deployment has not occurred since riots broke out in Paris' suburbs in 2005.
Unconfirmed images from social media also appear to show the French army moving vehicles – some of them armored – towards Paris.
Paris police have urged shopkeepers along the Champs-Elysees to close on Saturday, and dozens of museums and cultural sites will also be shut for the weekend, including the iconic Eiffel Tower. The protests, named after the high visibility vests French motorists have to carry in their cars, erupted in November over the squeeze on household budgets caused by fuel taxes.
Demonstrations swiftly grew into a broad and sometimes violent rebellion against the government, but without formal leaders.
Their demands are diverse and include lower taxes, higher salaries, cheaper energy costs, better retirement provisions and even Macron’s resignation.