The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum and scores of shops on the Champs-Elysees are set to close as authorities warned Thursday of fresh violence this weekend during protests which have ballooned into the biggest crisis of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.
The government is scrambling to stave off another Saturday of burned cars and running street battles with police by “yellow vest” protesters furious over rising costs of living they blame on high taxes.
An interior ministry official told AFP 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.
Officials fear they could be joined by hooligans set on rioting and looting, as is widely thought to have been the case last weekend.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 8,000 police would be deployed in Paris alongside a dozen armoured vehicles for crowd control as part of “exceptional” measures to contain the risk of violence.
He also reiterated his appeal for calm, saying in a prime-time TV interview that the government was ready to consider “any measure which would allow us to boost spending power”.
Across the country some 89,000 police will be mobilised, up from 65,000 last weekend, when the country was rocked by daylong scenes of urban unrest in Paris.
But so far the “yellow vest” movement shows no signs of losing steam, despite the government’s rollback of planned fuel tax hikes for January, one of the protesters’ core demands.
Shops along the Champs-Elysees as well as popular shopping streets near the iconic avenue were told to keep their doors closed, protect exposed windows and remove any outdoor furniture including tables and chairs, according to the police notices seen by AFP.
The move is likely to cost businesses thousands of euros in lost revenue as tourists and locals alike stay clear during a second holiday weekend in a row.
Both the Garnier and Bastille opera houses have cancelled performances scheduled for Saturday, and the doors of major museums will remain shut.
A Paris Saint-Germain football game against Montpellier scheduled for Saturday has also been postponed after a request by Paris police, and some schools near the Champs-Elysees have called off Saturday classes.