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France protests: Government fears 'major violence' in coming days

December 7, 2018 4:37 am

The French government says it fears “major violence” in Paris on Saturday as the national “yellow vests” protest movement shows little sign of easing.

The government said it was scrapping the fuel tax increases in its budget – the original spark for the protests.

But broader discontent with the government has spread, and protests have erupted over several other issues.

On Thursday young people took to the streets, protesting over educational reforms.

More than 140 people were arrested when a protest outside a school in Mantes-la-Jolie in Yvelines ended in clashes with police. Dozens of other schools were blockaded in cities including Marseille, Nantes and Paris.

Students have been angered by President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to change the end-of-school exam, known as the baccalaureate, which is required for entrance to university. Critics fear the reforms will limit opportunity and breed inequality.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s planned rally of the yellow vests looks set to go ahead. Recent protests have turned violent, causing millions of euros in damage.

Police have advised shops and restaurants on the Champs-Elysees to shut for the day. Some museums in Paris have also said they will be closed.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe told the Senate that “exceptional means” would be used on Saturday in addition to 65,000 police officers on duty across France.

Confirming that the fuel tax had been abandoned, he told senators that the calm of most protesters around the country contrasted with the “extreme violence” seen in Paris.

“Unlike others, I’m not seeking to apportion blame for this anger,” he said. As mayor of the northern port of Le Havre he said he had felt local anger rise every year, after every election. “It’s been muted for a long time, because it’s been silenced for a long time, by shame, sometimes by pride.”

According to French media, Mr Philippe will decide on Saturday whether to deploy armoured vehicles to clear roads in Paris if barricades are erected. Such a deployment has not taken place since 1968.