In brief

  • FCO has warned travellers to avoid demonstrations
  • Motorists may experience delays due to blockades
  • Eiffel Tower and tourist sites in Paris will close on Saturday

The UK Foreign Office has warned travellers to avoid anti-government protests in Paris on Saturday due to fears of further riots.

More than 100 people were injured during demonstrations in Paris last weekend and angry protests have continued across France this week.

Widespread “yellow vests” blockades over diesel tax rises have morphed into anger at the high cost of living gained support across the political spectrum, from far right to far left groups.

Last weekend activists wearing fluorescent yellow high-visibility vests torched cars, smashed windows, looted stores, threw rocks at police and tagged the Arc de Triomphe with graffiti.

Workers clean around the "Arc de Triomphe" a day after a "yellow vests" demonstration against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 2, 2018 in Paris. A grffiti on the monument reads "yellow vests will triumph". - Anti-government protesters torched dozens of cars and set fire to storefronts during daylong clashes with riot police across central Paris yesterday, as thousands took part in fresh "yellow vest" protests against high fuel taxes. (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP) (Photo credit should read GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers clean around the Arc de Triomphe a day after a “yellow vests” demonstration against rising oil prices and living costs on December 2 in Paris (Photo: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images)

Paris police responded with tear gas and water cannon, closing down dozens of streets and metro stations to contain the riot.

Four people have been killed since the protests started three weeks ago.

What’s happening in Paris?

More demonstrations are planned on Saturday and tens of thousands of police and gendarmerie will be deployed across the capital.

Museums and landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Orsay museum will remain shut all day. Shops and cafes on the Champs-Elysees and surrounding streets, and other major shopping streets such as Bastille, will also shut their doors. Some metro stations will also close.

What does the Foreign Office advise?

The UK FCO advises avoiding protests if at all possible and following the advice of the authorities.

It goes on to warn: “Outside Paris, related demonstrations are likely to occur in other towns and cities across the country. Motorists travelling through France may also experience delays or blockages caused by demonstrators at motorway toll booths.”

You can keep up to date by following @ukinfrance on Facebook and Twitter, and checking the Foreign Office’s travel advice page, which is updated regularly.

Why are people protesting?

The protests began last month with motorists upset over a fuel tax hike.

They were sparked by anger about the rising cost of petrol and diesel. In the past year, there’s been a 23 per cent increase in the cost of diesel and 15 per cent in petrol, and the price will rise again from January 2019 – diesel is due to be taxed another 6.5 cents per litre and petrol by 2.9 cents.

Ambulance drivers demonstrate near the French National Assembly in Paris, on December 3 to protest against their working conditions (Photo: LUCAS BARIOULET/AFP/Getty Images)

The protests have grown to represent a range of complaints claiming that Mr Macron’s government does not care about the problems of ordinary people. The demonstrations have come to symbolise the division between the governing Paris-based elite and rural poor.

This week the “yellow vests” protestors were joined by private ambulance drivers and students angry about cuts to the education budget.

Who is organising the protests?

The protests have been coordinated on social media and happened organically, which is why it’s unclear how long they will continue for or how much disruption they will cause.

Read more:

The Gilets Jaunes: Why there are riots in France and what the protestors want

“We point out that we are not part of any organisation (or political party),” says a statement on the fuel protesters’ Facebook page, which has 32,000 followers. “This event comes about only from the French people!”

Why do the protestors wear yellow high-vis vests?

Many protesters are calling themselves “gilets jaunes” – “the yellow vests”. The nickname comes from the high-vis vests that French motorists have to carry in their car by law in case of a breakdown.

Additional reporting from PA





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