Brussels police arrest hundreds in 'yellow vest' riot

Arturo Kim
December 9, 2018

Despite some 89,000 police having been deployed to Paris to stave off the violence, 135 people were injured, including 17 police officers. "Protests and riots all over France", Trump said.

After the President last week retreated by cancelling a fuel tax increase planned for January, members of his government and even some members of opposition parties had called on the yellow vests to ignore calls for fresh protests after demonstrations on Dec 1 and 2 led to widespread vandalism and auto burnings across Paris.

It started as a protest against a fuel tax hike and metamorphosed into a rebellion against high taxes, eroding living standards and what many see as his inability to address the concerns of France's regions and ordinary people.

The Eiffel Tower, major museums and many metro stations were also closed as parts of central Paris went on effective lockdown.

The government's plan was to prevent a repeat of the rioting on December 2 that damaged the Arc de Triomphe and injured 130 people.

Macron's decision early in his presidency to slash taxes on France's wealthiest is particularly unpopular with the protesters.

"We'll make sure this day may unfold in the best possible way", Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said. "The government is not there for the people", she said. At least 1,385 protesters were arrested across France during the fourth weekend of "gilets jaunes" or the "yellow vest" demonstrations.

By 8.40 am (0740 GMT) police had already detained 278 people.

Hundreds of protesters wearing high-visibility yellow fluorescent vests descended upon the streets of Brussels to protest against higher fuel prices, where the agitation turned violent as protesters damaged public property and clashed with security forces, Anadolu News Agency reported.

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"We are here to tell (Macron) our discontent". Amid the tensions, police personnel were forced to use water cannons and pepper spray in a bid to disperse the demonstrators. Police killed another protester during riots in 1986, contributing to the ouster of the government in 1988.

Across the ocean, U.S. President Donald Trump seized the moment to once again criticize the 2015 Paris climate accord that he is abandoning.

The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid crowds", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens planning to visit Paris over the weekend to postpone their visit.

President Emmanuel Macron broke his silence to tweet appreciation for the police, but pressure mounted on Sunday for him to propose solutions to calm the anger dividing France.

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

Protests at dozens of schools over university reforms, and a call by farmers for demonstrations next week, have added to a sense of general revolt.

Arguing that such a move was necessary in order to boost investment and create jobs, he has so far ruled out re-imposing the "fortune tax".

The climbdown on higher fuel taxes - which were meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marked a major departure for the centrist president.

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