France 'gilets jaunes' protests: Police arrest hundreds

Debriefer - CNN
2018-12-08 | Since 1 Week

French "yellow vests" anti-government movement

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French police detained more than 340 people in Paris on Saturday as the city locked down ahead of another weekend of violence during protests by the "gilets jaunes" or "yellow vests" anti-government movement.

About 1,500 people, largely male, had gathered in the Champs-Elysees by 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. EST) dressed in the yellow high-visibility jackets that have become the symbol of the movement. Monuments including the Eiffel Tower and Paris' celebrated department stores remained closed with about 8,000 police on the streets.

It is the fourth weekly protest that last weekend erupted into the worst riots France had witnessed for decades.

With more riots expected in other parts of the country, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government was deploying 89,000 security force members across France.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner vowed Friday to deploy all the means available to ensure the latest protests are not hijacked by what he called "a small minority" who have been "radicalized and fallen into violence and hate."

"We have to guarantee the safety of protesters and the right of citizens to move around freely," he told reporters.

The French retail sector has suffered a loss in revenue of about $1.1 billion since the beginning of the yellow vest protests last month, a spokeswoman for the French retail federation, Sophie Amoros, told CNN.

Amid heightened tensions, police seized 28 petrol bombs and three homemade explosive devices Friday at an area blockaded by protesters in Montauban in southern France, a spokesman for the Tarn-et-Garonne prefecture told CNN.

On Friday, Paris' public transport operator, RATP, announced on its website that 36 Metro stations would be closed Saturday. It also said 50 bus lines will have limited to no service.

Dominique Moisi, a foreign policy expert at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne and a former Macron campaign adviser, told CNN the French presidency was not only in crisis but that Europe's future also hung in the balance.

"In a few months from now, there will be European elections, and France was supposed to be the carrier of hope and European progress. What happens if it's no longer? If the President is incapacitated to carry that message?" Moisi asked.

"It's about the future of democracy, as well; illiberal democracies are rising all over the world. And if Macron fails, the future of France risks looking like the presidency of Italy today. And it's much more serious because we have a centralized state, which plays a major role in the balance of power within Europe.

"But make no mistake, it is a French version of a much more global phenomenon."

France's far left CGT movement has pledged support for the movement, which is also supported by the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.


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