French yellow vests protest amid enhanced security
|Toronto Star 23 Mar 2019 at 05:01|
PARIS - The French government vowed to strengthen security as yellow vest protesters stage a 19th round of demonstrations, in an effort to avoid a repeat of last week’s riots in Paris.
Authorities banned protests Saturday from the capital’s Champs-Elysees avenue and central areas of several cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Rouen in western France.
French President Emmanuel Macron flanked by Elysee general secretary Alexis Kohler, left, holds a meeting at the Elysee presidential Palace, in Paris, Monday, March 18, 2019. Macron summoned top security officials Monday after police failed to contain resurgent rioting during yellow vest protests that transformed a luxurious Paris avenue into a battle scene. (Pool Photo via AP / Ludovic Marin)
In Paris, some yellow vests protesters were gathering Saturday morning on Trocadero plaza, next to the Eiffel Tower. Others issued calls for a demonstration from the Denfert-Rochereau plaza, in southern Paris, to tourist hotspot Montmartre in the north.
The new Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, who took charge following last week’s protests, said specific police units have been created to react faster to any violence.
About 6,000 police officers are deployed in the capital and two drones are helping to monitor the demonstrations.
Authorities also deployed soldiers to protect sensitive sites and allow police forces to focus on maintaining order during the protests.
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday dismissed criticism from opposition leaders regarding the involvement of the military.
“Those trying to scare people, or to scare themselves, are wrong,” he said in Brussels.
The French government announced new security measures this week and replaced the Paris police chief with Lallement following riots on the Champs-Elysees that left luxury stores ransacked and charred from arson fires.
Last week’s surge in violence came as the 4-month-old anti-government movement has been dwindling.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favour businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.