French troops have been deployed in Paris to support riot police shielding official buildings from “yellow vest” anti-government protests.
Hundreds of military trucks and armored vehicles arrived in the suburbs of Paris on the threshold of a large-scale action from the organizers of the protest, which is planned for this Saturday.
Across France, 89,000 police officers will be on duty and armoured vehicles will be deployed in the capital, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced.
Police have urged shops and restaurants on Paris’s Champs-Elysees to shut and some museums will also be closed.
French authorities will close dozens of museums, tourism sites and shops on Saturday, including the Eiffel Tower and Louvre, fearing a recurrence of last week’s violence in Paris, officials said on Thursday.
“We cannot take the risk when we know the threat,” Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, adding that far-right and far-left agitators were planning to hijack rallies by “yellow vest” protesters in Paris.
He said the Louvre museum, Orsay museum, the two operas, and the Grand Palais were among the sites that would be closed a week after rioters looted and defaced the Arc de Triomphe.
The “gilets jaunes” protesters, so-called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law, initially complained at a sharp increase in diesel taxes.
Mr Macron said his motivation for the increase was environmental, but protesters accused him of being out of touch.
The government later scrapped the plan but the yellow vest protesters were not placated. Last week, the movement – despite a lack of central leadership – issued more than 40 demands to government.
Among them were a minimum pension, widespread changes to the tax system, and a reduction in the retirement age.
Many protesters are law-abiding French citizens, engaged in a street protest that has huge public support and is widely seen as a legitimate democratic action.
The students, particularly, oppose the earlier education reform, which complicates the selection for admission to higher educational institutions, as well as protest a significant increase in tuition fees for foreign students.