Paris on lockdown as police clash with ‘Yellow Jackets’ and protests sweep France


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By Saphora Smith

PARIS — The sound of sirens, angry chants and the crack of stun grenades echoed throughout the French capital Saturday as Parisians braced themselves for what many feared would be the most violent protests in weeks of forceful anti-government demonstrations that have swept the country.

Protests that began last month against planned tax hikes on gas have since morphed into a wider rebuke of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency and an expression of anger at his attempts to reform France’s long-ailing economy.

An estimated 10,000 yellow jacket protesters flooded Paris’ otherwise largely deserted streets on Saturday, while 125,000 demonstrated around the country, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. Police arrested 1,385 people on Saturday and expect that the number may increase. In addition, 135 were injured, including 17 police officers, he added.

The effects of the protest were felt beyond the France’s borders as well, with protesters donning yellow jackets as a symbol of resistance in Belgium Saturday and Iraq earlier this week.

Almost eight in 10 people in France support the protests, according to a poll published last month.

The Champs-Elysées — the scene of last week’s clashes with police — was a rallying point for protesters, with many there calling for Macron to resign. Meanwhile, Paris’ glittering museums and galleries, including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, did not open their doors to the usual troop of holiday season tourists. Soccer matches were also called off across the country.

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