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400 arrested in Brussels 'yellow vest' protest

09 December 2018

Thousands of demonstrators clash with police on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. They said fellow protesters trying to reach Paris from Toulouse in southern France reported the same problems.

Three Associated Press journalists had gas masks and protective goggles confiscated by police despite carrying government-issued press cards.

This weekend, six matches in the top tier of France's football league were postponed.

Right from the start, the Gilets Jaunes - who take their name from the high-visibility jackets that drivers must wear if they step outside the auto on the roadside - were a symptom of a wider resistance to the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that 135 people had been injured and 974 taken into custody amid protests around the nation.

"These past three weeks have seen the birth of a monster that has escaped its creators", he said, adding that a "large-scale" security operation would be launched Saturday.

The message was part of a deepening feud between the USA president and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. "I hope he will speak to the people of France as a father, with love and respect and that he will take strong decisions", he said.

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.

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Protesters also blocked roads, roundabouts and tollbooths elsewhere in France and offshoot movements have emerged in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The climbdown over the fuel tax - meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure for Macron, who has previously vowed not to be swayed, like previous presidents, by large street protests.

With protesters calling on social media for "Act IV" - a fourth weekend of protest - Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 65,000 police would be drafted in to stop a repeat of last Saturday's mayhem in Paris, when rioters torched cars and looted shops off the Champs Elysees boulevard.

Hundreds of marchers tried to enter the European quarter of Brussels, throwing paving stones, road signs, fireworks, flares and other objects at police blocking their entry to an area where Mr Michel's offices, other government buildings and the parliament are located.

Police put up barricades there and both vehicles and pedestrians were denied access.

Department stores were also closed due to the risk of looting on what would normally be a busy shopping weekend in the run-up to Christmas. He called on peaceful protesters not to get mixed up with "hooligans".

Much of the city will effectively be on lockdown.

Dozens of streets in central Paris were closed to traffic, while the Eiffel Tower and world-famous museums such as the Musee d'Orsay, the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre were closed.

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The government, as well as most opposition parties and unions have called for calm.

In a warning of impending violence, an MP for Macron's party, Benoit Potterie, received a bullet in the post on Friday with the words: "Next time it will be between your eyes".

Protesters wearing yellow vests face off with French Gendarmes on the Champs-Elysees Avenue during a demonstration by the "yellow vests" movement in Paris, France, December 8, 2018.

Despite the government's climbdown over the fuel tax, the "yellow vests" continue to demand more concessions, including lower taxes, a higher minimum wage, lower energy costs, better retirement benefits and even Macron's resignation.

But the yellow vests, many of whom who have become increasingly radicalised, are holding out for more.

The anti-government demonstrations are being led by the so-called "yellow vest" movement, named after the safety jackets carried by motorists in France, fuelled by anger over President Macron's tax reforms.

Since then the movement has snowballed into a wider revolt against Macron's economic policies and his top-down approach to power.

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400 arrested in Brussels 'yellow vest' protest