Police Arrest Hundreds in Paris Ahead of ‘Yellow Vests’ Protests


French police arrested 317 people across Paris early Saturday, ahead of planned protests by the “Yellow Vests” movement in the French capital, seeking to prevent violent clashes between rioters and police forces seen a week ago on and around the Champs-Elysees.
Of those arrested during police checks, 32 have been placed in custody, the police prefecture said. One hundred of people were demonstrating peacefully early in the morning at the Arc-de-Triomphe, France Info reported.

A yellow vest protestor is searched by riot police near the Arc de Triomphe on Dec. 8.
Photographer: Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

France is bracing for a fourth weekend of nationwide protests. They began to fight higher gasoline taxes and have now spread to other demands, reflecting complaints about purchasing power and a general dislike of President Emmanuel Macron.
After Macron this week retreated by canceling a fuel-tax increase planned for January, members of his government and even some members of opposition parties had called on Yellow Vests to ignore calls for fresh protests after last weekend’s demonstrations led to widespread vandalism and car burnings across Paris.

‘A Monster’

“The movement has given birth to a monster,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Friday as he detailed security measures at a news conference. “Everything leads us to believe that rioters will try to mobilize again."
After being taken by surprise by the scale of last Saturday’s violence, Paris prepared this time by closing many museums, asking shops on the Champs-Elysees avenue to shutter, and postponing Saturday’s Paris Saint-Germain-Montpellier football match. The Eiffel Tower as well as iconic department store Galeries Lafayette are closed for the day.
Over 89,000 officers have been deployed across the country to maintain order including 8,000 in Paris where demonstrators torched cars, fought with riot police and vandalized the Arc de Triomphe last week. Police in the capital will be backed up by a dozen armored vehicles.

The grassroots movement --named after the vests that all motorists must keep in their cars -- has led to sporadic blockades of roads, fuel depots and warehouses since the first “day of action” Nov. 17. It’s organized through social media and has no leadership, but has the support of three-quarters of the French public, polls show.

Expanding Demands

The movement’s demands have also expanded to higher pensions, an increase in the minimum wage, a repeal of other taxes, the restoration of a wealth tax, a law fixing a maximum salary, and replacing Macron and the National Assembly with a “People’s Assembly.” While political parties have tried to show their support for the movement, the Yellow Vests have rejected any political link.
At first the government dismissed the movement, saying the higher gasoline taxes had been compensated by cuts in payroll taxes. Then it sought to highlight its contradictory demands, which include fewer taxes and better services. As popular support for the movement rose and violence spread, Macron returned from a G-20 summit in Argentina last Sunday to hold a series of emergency meetings that led with scrapping next year’s fuel-tax hikes, a rare retreat for the stubborn 40-year old.
Most Yellow Vests said the measures were too little too late and maintained their roadblocks as well as calls for today’s protests in Paris.