— Police have detained hundreds of people under suspicion of intent to commit violence, destruction, or vandalism.
— Officers have fired tear gas at protesters seeking to reach the Elysee Palace.
— According to police, some 1,500 people had gathered for protests on the Champs Elysees, with another demonstration across town around the Place de la Bastille.
— Some 89,000 police have been deployed across France, with demonstrations also taking place in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Police in Paris fired tear gas canisters at yellow vest demonstrators on Saturday, as they gathered to stage another weekend of protests against French President Emmanuel Macron.
Police said they had arrested 278 people early on Saturday as the city prepared for a fresh wave of protests and possible violence.
Officials said a large number of the arrested individuals were suspected of joining a gathering to prepare for violence, destruction, or vandalism. Most were later released although some 30 were held for questioning, according to public broadcaster FranceInfo.
Demonstrators wearing the trademark fluorescent “yellow vests” had gathered before dawn on Saturday, near the Arc de Triomphe. The landmark itself was damaged last weekend when it became the epicenter of violent protests in which 100 people were injured.
The tear gas was fired as the protests reached the Champs Elysees. One protester told WNO’s Catherine Martens that police had aggravated the situation.
Protesters told WNO’s Lisa Louis that police had removed protective gear from protesters before allowing them onto the Champs Elysees.
Some 8,000 police were deployed in the capital ahead of the protests, with 89,000 prepared for action across the country.
The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum were closed, along with hundreds of shops and businesses amid fears of possible looting.
Fear of extremist infiltration
Members of the movement have called for calm, with representatives having met French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday in an effort to ease tension.
But the French government has expressed fear that the protests over higher living costs could be hijacked by extremists from both the left and right of the political spectrum.
“According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a press conference on Friday. “Some ultra-violent people want to take part.”
Protesters broaden demands
President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week announced that the planned increased in petrol and diesel taxes — which acted as a catalyst for the unrest — would be canceled outright.
However, prominent protesters with wider demands — including broader tax cuts and salary raises — insisted they would descend on Paris anyway.
The protests were expected to cross borders on Saturday, with demonstrations in neighboring Belgium and in the Netherlands. Neither country has proposed a fuel tax hike of its own.
Protests were expected outside European Union institutions in the Belgian capital. More than 70 people were detained in Brussels last week, when yellow vest protesters clashed with police.
In the Netherlands, demonstrations were planned in the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
rc/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)