Paris, 22 March 2019 (MIA/dpa) – Paris police have confirmed that protests by the Yellow Vest movement on Saturday will be banned on the Champs-Elysees and around the Elysee Palace and National Assembly.
Local authorities in Toulouse, Marseille and Nice also announced bans on demonstrations in central areas, as the government prepares for a crackdown on the four-month-old, largely leaderless protest movement.
President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government, determined to reassert control after violence and looting on the Champs-Elysees last week, has vowed that any protests defying the bans will be broken up immediately.
Defence Minister Florence Parly meanwhile defended the government’s decision to call in troops to defend public buildings and free up police to deal with protesters.
It was “obviously out of the question” that the soldiers would come face-to-face with demonstrators, she told newspaper Le Parisien.
“The soldiers will be deployed at sites and will not in any way be involved in public order operations,” Paris military governor General Bruno Le Ray told public broadcaster FranceInfo.
But Le Ray’s confirmation that troops were authorized to open fire if their lives were at risk drew an angry response from radical left-wing opposition leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.
The deployment of troops put “the whole country, the relation between the army and the nation … at the mercy and within the reach of any single provocateur,” Melenchon warned, calling for mass peaceful protests.
The Yellow Vests initially opposed planned fuel tax rises, but since those were cancelled have raised broader demands about pay, taxation, and direct democracy, as well as demanding Macron’s resignation.