French police fire tear gas in Paris to halt angry protests

French troops deployed in Paris amid ‘yellow vest’ protest

Granted, for the fourth weekend in a row, tens of thousands of protesters clad in yellow auto emergency vests swarmed the streets of Paris - where the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and department stores were closed and designer boutiques were boarded up, many metro stations were shut down and major arteries were closed off by police in riot gear.

The violence appeared to have been caused by a mix of radicalized Yellow Vests, as well as unaffiliated anarchists and youths from Paris suburbs.

French riot police have fired tear gas at "yellow vest" protesters gathered on the Champs Elysees boulevard.

The French capital experienced its worst riots in decades last weekend, in scenes that shook the country and plunged President Emmanuel Macron's government into its deepest crisis so far.

Thick plumes of black smoke from fires could be seen rising high into the sky over the city.

Protesters in Brussels threw paving stones, road signs, fireworks, flares and other objects at police blocking their entry to an area where Michel's offices, other government buildings and the parliament are located.

While the yellow-vest protests were initially triggered by complaints that an eco-tax on fuel placed an unfair burden on the working poor for tackling climate change, the demonstrations have continued since that tax increase was paused because they are driven by broader concerns about income inequality, austerity and underfunded public services.

Some of those arrested were carrying hammers, slingshots and rocks.

But the protests were far smaller than last week's demonstrations, as police sought to preempt any chaos by arresting protesters and confiscating unsafe objects before demonstrations began.

Prized Paris monuments and normally bustling shopping meccas locked down and tens of thousands of police took position around France. Christmas markets, national football matches and countless other events have been cancelled or disrupted by the protests.

Interior Minister Christopher Castaner said that he expects radical elements to be present in Paris and that "the past three weeks have given birth to a monster that has escaped its creators".

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Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described "moderate" yellow vests who urged people not to join the protests.

After the meeting a movement spokesman, Christophe Chalencon, said the premier had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president". More than 1,300 people were taken into custody, Beardsley reported.

Across France, 89,000 police officers will be on duty and armoured vehicles will be deployed in the capital, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced.

The Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks were shut, shops were boarded up to avoid looting and street furniture removed to avoid metal bars from being used as projectiles.

Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world's most visited cities. In response, "Macron, resign!" has become the main slogan of the "yellow vest" demonstrators.

In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters in the high-visibility vests walked peacefully across the Erasmus Bridge singing and handing flowers to passers-by.

And the hardline CGT union, hoping to capitalise on the movement, has called for rail and Metro strikes next Friday to demand immediate wage and pension increases.

Nonetheless, the 40-year-old Mr Macron, whose popularity is at a low ebb according to polls, has been forced into making the first major U-turn of his presidency by abandoning a fuel tax.

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

But the policy, along with hikes on pensioners' taxes, cuts in housing allowances and a string of comments deemed insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to label him a "president of the rich".

It shows a woman, Jacline Mouraud, addressing French President Emmanuel Macron - "Monsieur Macron", she says - from her living room.

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