70 arrested in Brussels during 'yellow vest' protest

Mae Love
December 8, 2018

Up to 5,000 demonstrators have gathered in the city centre, and at least 272 people have been arrested.

Authorities are deploying barricade-busting armored vehicles and 8,000 police in the capital alone; nationwide, some 89,000 security forces fanned out to deter or confront troublemakers expected at multiple protests.

A protester wearing a French flag stands in front of French Gendarmes in place on the Champs-Elysees Avenue during a national day of protest by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018.

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. The Nicolas wine chain, one of France's biggest retailers, canceled all its wine tasting sessions scheduled for Saturday.

"We can not take the risk when we know the threat", Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, adding that far-right and far-left agitators were planning to hijack rallies by "yellow vest" protesters in Paris.

One participant, Christophe Chalancon, told reporters the prime minister "listened to us". The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum were among the many tourist attractions that closed for the day, fearing damages amid a new round of protests. Paris police said 30 people were injured, including three police officers.

Police were earlier searching people throughout zones of central Paris and confiscating goggles and gas masks from journalists who use them to protect against tear gas while covering demonstrations.

Some remain focused on lowering fuel taxes and other financial burdens, saying low-income families in particular are paying the price for Macron's push to reform and revive the French economy.

Nigel Farage said the violent protests that have broken out across France are a sign of the growing disconnect between the country's citizens and its elites.

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"There have been around 70 arrests following checks carried out as a preventive measure", Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van De Keere told AFP.

After the plan was leaked, the French Interior Ministry "had to make changes" in its strategy and tactics to counter "the yellow vests protests, named after the reflective vests all French drivers are required to keep in their cars, according to the source". So the protesters tried other routes, marching through the prime shopping district that includes the high-end stores of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps and the Palais Garnier opera house.

After two weekends of violence in Paris that made the authorities look powerless to secure their capital, police went into overdrive on Saturday to keep a lid on unrest.

Prominent "yellow vest" protester Benjamin Cauchy has called on Mr Macron to meet a delegation to defuse a situation that he said had brought France "to the brink of insurrection and civil war". The city subway system was shut down in the centre of town.

France has been gripped by rallies as Yellow Vests demand new concessions from the government.

Jan Dijkgraaf, editor of a Dutch "resistance newspaper" is calling for peaceful protests in the Dutch cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

But his climbdown on fuel taxes - meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure for a leader who had prided himself on not giving into street protests. "Some ultra-violent people want to take part". In response, "Macron, resign!" has become the main slogan of the "yellow vest" demonstrators.

Since the unrest began November 17 in response to a sharp increase in diesel taxes, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

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