Yellow vest protest in Paris sees police detain hundreds

Protesters in Brussels clashing with police today near European institutions. – EPA pic

"We can not take the risk when we know the threat", Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, adding that far-right and far-left agitators were planning to hijack rallies by "yellow vest" protesters in Paris.

Shouts of "Macron, resign" mingled with tear gas on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was the scene of the worst rioting in Paris in decades last week.

But that didn't deter many people from trying to march on the presidential palace Saturday.

Dominic Blaise, a 57-year-old aeronautics engineer from the Paris suburbs, came the demonstration with his son.

Over the past few weeks, the social media movement has morphed from a protest over fuel prices to a leaderless spectrum of interest groups and differing demands.

Protesters also blocked roads, roundabouts and tollbooths elsewhere in France.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday postponed a proposed hike in the country's tax on gas and diesel fuel, meant to encourage more usage of electric vehicles, but it doesn't seem to have derailed the protests.

"There have been around 70 arrests following checks carried out as a preventive measure", Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van De Keere told Agence France-Presse.

After being taken by surprise by the scale of last Saturday's violence, Paris prepared by closing many museums, asking shops on the Champs-Elysees to shutter, and postponing Saturday's Paris Saint-Germain-Montpellier football match.

An estimated 125,000 people had demonstrated around France while 10,000 took their anger to the streets of Paris, double the number in the capital last week, he said.

"These past three weeks have produced a monster that its creators no longer control", Interior Minister Castaner said on Friday, vowing "zero tolerance" toward those aiming to wreak further destruction.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests who have urged people not to join the protests. After the meeting a spokesman from the movement, Christophe Chalencon, said Philippe had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president".

Many shops in Paris were boarded up before Saturday's planned protests to avoid being smashed or looted, and police cordoned off numerous city's broad boulevards. Some could be held in the city center on what is a major Christmas shopping weekend.

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The government, as well as most opposition parties and unions have called for calm.

The protests began in response to a planned fuel tax increase, which French President Emmanuel Macron announced he would suspend earlier this week.

An apolitical movement with members who vote for parties of various stripes, the "yellow vests" have won support from everyone from far-right leader Marine Le Pen to far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Protests at dozens of schools over university reforms, and a call by farmers for demonstrations next week, have added to a sense of general revolt.

President Donald Trump weighed in on the so-called "gilets jaunes" protests, a movement against an eco-tax on gas.

However, he rules out re-imposing a "fortune tax" on high-earners.

Mr Macron said his motivation for the increase was environmental, but protesters accused him of being out of touch.

High taxes in France have been the source of discontent and unrest among French residents.

Four people have been killed in accidents since the unrest began November 17.

Parts of Paris looked as if they were bracing for a hurricane, with boards on windows covering up the Christmas decorations.

"It's with an vast sadness that we'll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority", Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

While scattered scuffles broke out Saturday around central Paris, the action seemed less violent overall at midday than at the same time a week ago.

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