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France to close Eiffel Tower, Louvre, fearing new ‘yellow vest’ unrest

Published: Updated:

France will close the Eiffel Tower and other tourism landmarks and draft in thousands more security forces on Saturday to stave off another wave of violent protests in the capital over living costs.

With protesters from the “yellow vest” movement calling on social media for “Act IV” - a fourth weekend of protest - Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 89,000 police nationwide would be deployed to stop a repeat of last Saturday’s mayhem across the country and in particular Paris when rioters torched cars and looted shops off the famed Champs Elysees boulevard.

Speaking Thursday on French television TF1, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 8,000 police will be mobilized in Paris alone, “many more” than last weekend.

In the French capital, they will be equipped with a dozen armored vehicles - a first in an French urban area since 2005.

Philippe said in Paris and other places across France, “we are facing people who don’t come to protest but to destroy.”

He refused suggestions that he resign in the wake of the worst riots in Paris since 1968. He also noted that the lower house of parliament has approved the French government’s move to roll back a new gas tax, the original reason for the unrest.

Ready for concessions

Seeking to regain the initiative after weeks of civil unrest, the government appeared ready to offer concessions.

Philippe told the Senate he was open to new measures to help the lowest-paid workers while Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he was prepared to accelerate tax cuts for households and that he wanted workers’ bonuses to be tax-free.

VIDEO: Cars ablaze as Paris ‘Yellow Vest’ protests continue against tax hikes

“I am ready to look at all measures that will help raise the pay of those on the minimum wage without doing excessive damage to our competitiveness and businesses,” Philippe told the parliament’s upper house.

The rush of sweeteners to soothe public anger began with Philippe’s climb-down on fuel tax hikes, the first major U-turn of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.

Yet, five days after the worst rioting central Paris has seen since 1968, all signs are that the government has failed to quell the revolt.

A repeat of last Saturday’s violence in Paris’s city center -- which saw rioters deface the Arc de Triomphe with anti-Macron graffiti -- would deal a blow to the economy and raise doubts over the government’s survival.

Museums closed

Philippe said the state would do all it could to maintain order. At least four first division football matches have been cancelled and several museums including the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, were asked to close

“We cannot 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 the rallies by “yellow vest” protesters.

He said the Louvre museum, Orsay museum, the two operas, and the Grand Palais were among the sites that would be closed.

The Eiffel Tower will also be closed on Saturday due to the protests, the site’s operator SETE said, warning that it could not ensure security for visitors.