Paris, Dec 8: The number of agitators arrested by French Police reached 354 on Saturday, with around 32 already remanded to custody, in one of the worst protests witnessed by the country, since the last decade.
Quoting Le Parisien and BFMTV, French newspaper The Local said police resorted to firing tear gas shells on the agitators this morning near the Champs-Elysées, to prevent violence. Around 1,000 agitators had gathered in front of the security perimeter, facing the Arc de Triomphe.
The Local France's Editor Ben McPartland, who was reporting live from the Champs-Élysées, said despite the 8,000 police officers deployed in central Paris, hundreds of yellow vests have already descended on the Champs-Élysées, chanting and carrying banners with slogans calling for Macron to resign.
Major monuments and department stores had either downed their shutters, or were in the process of doing so in this French capital, while top-flight football matches and music shows were cancelled. Interior Minister of France Christophe Castaner said he expected "only a few thousand people" to descend on the capital after the 8,000 protesters counted last weekend, "but among them are ultraviolent individuals".
"These past three weeks have seen the birth of a monster that has escaped its creators," he said, adding that a "large-scale" security operation would be launched on Saturday. He vowed "zero tolerance" towards those aiming to wreak further destruction and mayhem, after dozens of vehicles were torched, shops looted and the Arc de Triomphe war memorial was wrecked last Saturday.
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 movement Spokesperson Christophe Chalencon said the premier had "listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president".
"Now, we await (French President Emmanuel) Macron. I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and that he will take strong decisions," he said. France is seeing renewed anti-government protests, with nearly 90,000 security personnel on the streets.
Some 8,000 officers and 12 armoured vehicles have been deployed in Paris alone, where about 1,000 people have gathered in the city centre. The "yellow vest" movement began three weeks ago in opposition to a rise in fuel tax, but Ministers said it has been hijacked by "ultra-violent" protesters.
Last week, hundreds of people were arrested and scores injured in violence in Paris - some of the worst street clashes in the French capital for decades.
There is a heavier security presence than on previous weekends of the protests. The BBC's Hugh Schofield, on the Champs-Elysées, says he was told by protesters that their masks, used to protect against tear gas, had also been removed by police.
Police said at least 34 people have been detained at railway stations and in the streets, with nearly 350 stopped for identity checks.
About 65,000 security officers were deployed across the country last weekend, but that has been increased to 89,000, even though Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he expected fewer protesters than last weekend, perhaps about 10,000 nationwide. (UNI)