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France

Resilient Yellow Vests continue 9th weekend of protests

media A yellow vest movement member wearing a T-shirt which reads "France is Angry" raises his fist with comrades on a roundabout in Nice, France, January 11, 2019. The slogan "We won't budge an inch". REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

'Act 9' of the Yellow Vest movement saw armoured cars being deployed in Paris amid fears of increased violence. A mass rally has also been called in the central city of Bourges.

Officials have warned they expect this weekend's anti-government demonstrations to be bigger and more violent than a week ago, as a movement which had shown signs of fatigue appeared to gain new momentum.

Armoured vehicles and 5,000 officers will be deployed in Paris, where images of burning cars, smashed shops and daylong clashes between protesters and police have made global headlines since November.

Bourges - new Yellow Vest haven?

Others have called on protesters to converge on the central city of Bourges, which could potentially attract more people from cities farther from Paris.

Even though some Yellow Vest protesters hope that the change of venue might entail more peaceful demostrations, Bourges city officials have outlawed all gatherings in the historic city centre.

Nationwide some 80,000 security forces will be on hand.

Fear of violence dampens post-New Year sale

The city's chamber of commerce estimates that nearly 500 shops have been damaged since the protests began, and many shops are likely to be boarded up and closed again on Saturday.

The weekend is the first after discounted New Year sales began in France.

It was unclear if the Paris protests would again focus on the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, or begin in the La Defense business district west of the city.

Police expect more violence from sideline vandals

Paris police chief Michel Delpuech said he expected demonstrators to surpass the roughly 3,500 that attempted to march on the National Assembly last week, and predicted they would be "more tempted by violence".

"Those who think that, a few thousand people, can make us question our institutions, are wrong," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a Facebook interview Friday.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen condemned the government's reaction as "disturbing".

"To accuse all protesters of 'complicity' with the thugs: here is a new verbal provocation and legal ineptitude waiting to undermine our rule of law," she wrote on Twitter.

 

President Emmanuel Macron's appeal for unity and calm does not seem to have quietened the more extreme elements of the movement. Michel Euler/Pool via REUTERS

Authorities promise tough crackdown

Last Saturday around 50,000 people wearing the movement's trademark high-visibility vests took part in protests nationwide, though that was far below the nearly 300,000 that turned out for the inaugural protest in mid-November.

But authorities have vowed to crack down on the violence that has marred the demonstrations, which began over high fuel taxes but ballooned into a wholesale rejection of President Emmanuel Macron and his policies.

Protesters accuse Macron, 41, of being deaf to the concerns of ordinary citizens and of favouring the rich over the poor in his policies.

Some are intent on forcing him from office.

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