Protests in France have 'created a monster'

Pro-violence extremists expected to be among demonstrators Saturday, says Christophe Castaner

Protests in France have 'created a monster'

The last three weeks of protests in France have "created a monster", the country’s interior minister said Friday.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the weekend, when a fresh round of anti-government protests will be held throughout the country Saturday against spiraling living costs, Christophe Castaner said that unlike past weeks, fewer people will likely be taking part.

 Castaner noted, however, that the number of protestors would likely reach several thousand.

He stressed that pro-violence extremists are expected to be among the demonstrators, adding massive security measures would be taken.

Castaner said there will be zero tolerance for violent acts and called on the demonstrators to take part in dialogue.

Protesters wearing bright yellow vests, who have been dubbed the Yellow Vests, are expected to gather early Saturday at the famous Champs-Elysees avenue, where stores, restaurants and banks began taking their own measures, including covering their windows and doors with wooden planks and wire fencing.

Police distributed notices to shops and restaurants along the avenue warning them of possible violent incidents during the demonstrations.

Security officials asked them to keep doors and windows shut and not to leave chairs and tables outside. They also asked construction companies in the city not to leave building materials on streets.

Security forces also began taking measures near the Elysee Palace in the capital.

Police mobility has been enhanced in Paris ahead of the demonstrations. Dozens of armored vehicles and 89,000 troops will be on duty, including 8,000 in Paris.

Many regional government offices throughout France have also prohibited the sale of fuel and other flammable materials.

The demonstrations have also affected the cultural life of Paris. Museums will be closed Saturday, while opera performances and football matches have been cancelled in areas where protests area expected.

 Symbols of Paris such as the Eiffel Tower and the Triumphal Arch will be closed during the demonstrations.

Many metro lines as well as roads and streets around the Champs-Elysees will also be closed to traffic.

Thousands of Yellow Vest protesters have been gathering in major French cities, including Paris, since Nov. 17 to protest President Emmanuel Macron's controversial fuel tax hikes and the deteriorating economic situation in France.

The demonstrators, who generally live in rural areas due to high rents in the cities, called on Macron to cut fuel taxes and make economic arrangements to ease their lives. 

The French government cancelled the fuel tax hikes late Thursday following weeks of violent demonstrations.

At least three people have died during the riots while 1,043 others have been injured, including 222 members of the security forces. As many as 1,424 people have been arrested.

Fuel prices in France have risen more than 20 percent this year.