Eiffel Tower, Louvre shut down as France braces for new riots

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and French TV host Gilles Bouleau pose during the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1

One difference this week, in contrast to prior weeks, was an escalation of violence in cities and regions outside of Paris.

Belgian police fired tear gas and water cannons at yellow-vested protesters calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Charles Michel after they tried to breach a riot barricade, as the movement that started in France made its mark Saturday in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Shouts of "Macron, resign" mingled with the tear gas near the famous Champs-Elysees avenue, the scene of the worst rioting in Paris for decades last weekend.

In the Grands Boulevards shopping district, masked protesters threw rocks at riot police and set fire to a barricade hastily assembled from stolen dustbins and Christmas trees. "But I'm here to support my son because he has a lot of trouble getting by and I think all parents should do the same to support their kids, because next generations will be in a lot of difficulties", he said.

Prominent "yellow vest" Benjamin Cauchy has urged Macron to meet a delegation of protesters to defuse a situation that he said had brought France "to the brink of insurrection and civil war".

Defending the treatment of the children, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner aid: "Over the past few days, the students have been joined by about 100 hooded youths armed with clubs and incendiary devices and determined to pick a fight with police".

A national police spokesperson said officers stationed at train stations around the country are under orders to verify all passengers and turn away any carrying equipment that could be used to "cause damage to people or property".

While the demonstrations have carried on for a third week in a row, there was less violence this week than last week.

Paris monuments and shopping meccas are locked down.

At least four of the weekend's first division football matches have been cancelled.

Blue armoured vehicles rumbled across cobblestone streets from the Arc de Triomphe across toward eastern Paris as scattered demonstrations spread around the city. The question now is what is next for this movement that has taken French politicians by surprise?

"We can not take the risk when we know the threat", Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, according to Reuters. "Some ultra-violent people want to take part".

The Eiffel Tower and Louvre are shut along with hundreds of stores and businesses.

Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world's most visited cities.

The Élysée Palace, seat of President Emmanuel Macron, announced to French media they are expecting "great violence" on Saturday as Yellow Vest protestors have announced "Act IV" of their almost four-week-long protest against the Macron regime that was initially sparked by a rise in fuel taxes, franceinfo reports.

Protests at dozens of schools over stricter university entrance requirements, and a call by farmers for demonstrations next week, have added to a sense of a government under siege.

And the hardline CGT union, hoping to capitalise on the movement, has called for rail and Metro strikes next Friday to demand immediate wage and pension increases.

On Dec 5, Macron announces that all planned fuel tax hikes for 2019 will be scrapped.

But Macron's office has said he will stick to his decision to cut a "fortune tax" on high-earners, abolished a year ago in a bid to boost investment.

But the policy, along with hikes on pensioners' taxes, cuts in housing allowances and a string of comments deemed insensitive to ordinary workers, has led critics to label him a "president of the rich".

Macron had previously vowed to stay the course in his bid to shake up the French economy and not be swayed by mass protests that have forced previous presidents to back down.

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