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France

Paris monuments to close on Saturday amid fears of protest violence

media Eiffel Tower closed for security reasons GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum and many other shops on the Champs-Elysees are set to close on Saturday as authorities warned 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 said 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 - not used in urban areas since suburban youth riots in 2005 - 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. This is 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.

No opera or football

Shops and businesses along and near the famous Champs-Elysees were told to keep their doors closed, protect exposed windows and remove outdoor furniture, according to police notices.

The move is likely to cost thousands of euros in lost revenue as tourists and locals stay clear for a second holiday weekend in a row.

Both the Garnier and Bastille opera houses have cancelled performances on Saturday and the doors of major museums will be shut.

Six Ligue 1 football games, one involving Paris Saint-Germain, scheduled for Saturday have been postponed.

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