Minister says continuing French protests have created 'monster'

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Ahead of what are forecast to be a major demonstrations on Saturday by a grass-roots movement of often violent protest over the living standards of middle-income earners, France's interior minister has announced 'large-scale security measures' in Paris, including the deployment of armoured vehicles, in face of what he said has become a 'monster' that has escaped the control of those who initiated the nationwide contestation.

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Anti-government protests in France have "created a monster", France's interior minister Christophe Castaner has said, reports BBC News.

And he is warning that "radical elements" could infiltrate planned "yellow vest" protests at the weekend.

Tourist sites in Paris are to close on Saturday amid fears of further street violence.

The protests began three weeks ago, initially against a rise in fuel taxes but have spread to take in other issues, including education reforms.

Mr Castaner said "large-scale security measures" would be put in place this weekend.

Across France, 89,000 police officers will be on duty and armoured vehicles will be deployed in the capital, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced.

Paris police have urged shops and restaurants on the Champs-Elysées to shut and some museums will also be closed.

The government has said it is scrapping the unpopular fuel tax increases in its budget - but discontent with the government has spread and protests have erupted over other issues.

Further protests have been reported in the east of country.

One student has been injured following a demonstration in the town of Montbéliard, about 13 kilometres from the border with Switzerland, local media report. A police officer was seriously injured at a student protest in Mulhouse, according to French broadcaster BFMTV.

The AFP news agency reports that authorities seized 28 Molotov cocktails and 3 homemade bombs from "yellow vest" protesters in the south of the country.

There has also been widespread anger at images showing how police made high school students kneel and put their hands behind their heads following clashes on Thursday in Mantes-la-Jolie, to the west of Paris.

Mr Castaner told reporters that the past three weeks of demonstrations had "created a monster that escaped from its creators."

He said authorities would respond with "firmness".

He added: "I will have no tolerance of those who capitalise on the distress of our citizens."

An official with the interior ministry told AFP news agency authorities were braced for "significant violence" on Saturday, with activists from both the far right and far left planning to converge on the capital.

In an interview with TV channel TF1, Mr Philippe said 8,000 police would be deployed in Paris as well as a dozen armoured vehicles.

He repeated an appeal for calm but added: "We are facing people who are not here to protest, but to smash and we want to have the means not to give them a free rein."

Earlier, Mr Philippe suggested there might be further concessions to protesters, telling the Senate that the government was open to new measures to help the lowest-paid workers.

The operator of the Eiffel Tower said the threat of violent protests on Saturday made it impossible to ensure "adequate security conditions".

City authorities say they are stepping up protection for famous landmarks after the Arc de Triomphe was damaged last week.

Museums, including the Louvre and Orsay, opera houses and the Grand Palais complex will close on Saturday.

Police have asked businesses along the Champs-Elysées and other major shopping streets to stay closed and to remove any outdoor items such as tables and chairs.

Several football matches have also been postponed, including those between Paris and Montpellier, and Saint-Etienne and Marseille.

See more of this report from BBC News.

 

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