Paris on high alert as city shuts down for ‘yellow vest’ protests

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Cars drive on the Champs Elysees, on December 7, 2018 in Paris, one day before the 4th nationwide mobilisation by the Yellow vests (gilets jaunes). (AFP)
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Workers protect a shop window with wood panels on the Champs-Elysees Avenue near the Arc de Triomphe on the eve of a "yellow vests" protest in Paris, France, December 7, 2018. (Reuters)
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French Interior minister Christophe Castaner (C) looks at a Gendarmerie vehicle of the mobile Gendarmerie armored unit (groupement blinde de la Gendarmerie mobile) on December 7, 2018 in Versailles-Satory, west of Paris. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2018
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Paris on high alert as city shuts down for ‘yellow vest’ protests

  • In addition to the 8,000 police forces that will be deployed in the French capital city, the Paris police prefect has identified 14 high-risk sectors that will be cleared out
  • More than 130 people were injured and over 400 were arrested in the worst street violence seen in the country in decades

PARIS: Paris was on high alert Saturday with major security measures in place ahead of fresh “yellow vest” protests which authorities fear could turn violent for a second weekend in a row.
Shops, museums, metro stations and the Tour Eiffel were due to close, while top-flight football matches and music shows were canceled.
The French capital experienced its worst riots in decades last weekend, in scenes that shook the country and plunged President Emmanuel Macron’s government into its deepest crisis so far.
France’s interior minister Christophe Castaner said he expected “only a few thousand people” to descend on the capital after the 8,000 protesters counted last weekend, “but among them are ultraviolent individuals.”
“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.
He vowed “zero tolerance” toward those aiming to wreak further destruction and mayhem, after dozens of vehicles were torched, shops looted and the Arc de Triomphe war memorial was wrecked last Saturday.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Friday evening met a delegation of self-described “moderate” yellow vests who have urged people not to join the protests.
After the meeting a movement spokesman, Christophe Chalencon, said the premier had “listened to us and promised to take our demands to the president.”
“Now we await Mr.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.
Philippe said 8,000 police would be mobilized in Paris out of 89,000 nationwide, and that a dozen armored vehicles would be deployed — a first in the capital.

Shops around the famous Champs-Elysees boulevard — the epicenter of last week’s battle — were busy boarding up their windows and emptying them of merchandise on Friday.
Much of the city will effectively be on lockdown.
The operators of landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and Orsay museums said they would be closed, along with operas, theaters, libraries and major department stores.
Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world’s most visited cities.
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.
In a warning of impending violence, an MP for Macron’s party, Benoit Potterie, received a bullet in the mail on Friday with the words: “Next time it will be between your eyes.”
Calls on social media for protesters to attack the police or march on the presidential palace have especially rattled the authorities.

Macron this week gave in to some of the protesters’ demands for measures to help the poor and struggling middle classes, including scrapping a planned increase in fuel taxes and freezing electricity and gas prices in 2019.
But the “yellow vests,” many of whom who have become increasingly radicalized, are holding out for more.
Named after the high-visibility safety jackets worn by demonstrators, they began blocking roads, fuel depots and shopping centers around France on November 17 over soaring fuel prices this year.
Since then the movement has snowballed into a wider revolt against Macron’s economic policies and his top-down approach to power.
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 hard-line CGT union, hoping to capitalize on the movement, has called for rail and Metro strikes next Friday to demand immediate wage and pension increases.
Castaner estimated Friday that 10,000 people were taking part nationwide.
“10,000 is not the people, it’s not France,” he argued, despite polls showing the protesters enjoying strong public support.

The protesters accuse the centrist president of favoring the rich and city-dwellers over those trying to make ends meet in car-dependent rural and small-town France. Many are calling on him to resign.
Macron’s “cardinal sin,” in the eyes of the protesters, was slashing wealth taxes shortly after taking office.
The 40-year-old former investment banker, dubbed “the president of the rich” by critics, has so far ruled out re-imposing the “fortune tax” on high-earners, arguing it is necessary to boost investment and create jobs.
But his climbdown on fuel taxes — intended to help France transition to a greener economy — marks a major departure for a leader who had prided himself on not giving into street protests.
Macron himself has not commented publicly on the crisis since his return from the G20 summit in Argentina a week ago.
On Friday he met gendarmes in the eastern Paris suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne ahead of the Saturday demonstrations. He is expected to address the protests in a speech 


Australia’s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media as he arrives at the Horizon Church in Sutherland in Sydney, Australia, May 19, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 May 2019
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Australia’s conservative coalition wins surprise 3rd term

  • Govt claims miraculous result, but unclear if can form majority
  • Morrison govt polls strongly in Queensland state

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s ruling conservative coalition won a surprise victory in the country’s general election on Saturday, defying opinion polls that had tipped the center-left opposition party to oust it from power and promising an end to the revolving door of national leaders.
“I have always believed in miracles,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a jubilant Sydney crowd.
He compared his Liberal Party’s victory for a third three-year term to the births of his daughters, Abbey, 11, and Lily, 9, who were conceived naturally after 14 years of in vitro fertilization had failed. His wife, Jenny Morrison, suffered endometriosis.
“I’m standing with the three biggest miracles in my life here tonight, and tonight we’ve been delivered another one,” he said, embraced by his wife and daughters.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten had earlier conceded defeat as the coalition came close to a majority in the 151-seat House of Representatives, where parties need a majority to form a government. Vote counting was to continue on Sunday.
“I’m disappointed for people who depend upon Labor, but I’m glad that we argued what was right, not what was easy,” Shorten told his supporters.
Shorten would have become Australia’s sixth prime minister in as many years. He said he would no longer lead Labor after six years at the helm.
The tight race raised the prospect of the coalition forming a minority government. The conservatives became a rare minority government after they dumped Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister for Morrison in an internal power struggle last August. The government then lost two seats and its single-seat majority as part of the blood-letting that followed.
An unpopular single-term Labor government that was voted out in 2013 had been the only previous minority government since World War II.
Opinion polls prior to Saturday’s election had suggested that the coalition would lose and that Morrison would have had one of the shortest tenures as prime minister in the 118-year history of the Australian federation.
Morrison had focused his campaigning on polling that showed while Labor was more popular than the government, the prime minister was more popular than Shorten.
There was so much public confidence of a Labor victory that Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet paid out 1.3 million Australian dollars ($900,000) to bettors who backed Labor two days before the election. Sportsbet said 70% of wagers had been placed on Labor at odds of $1.16.
Another betting agency, Ladbrokes, said it had accepted a record AU$1 million wager on Labor.
Shorten, who campaigned heavily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said Saturday morning that he was confident Labor would win, but Morrison would not be drawn on a prediction.
Morrison is the conservatives’ third prime minister since they were elected in 2013.
Tony Abbott, who became the first of those three prime ministers in the 2013 election, conceded defeat in the Sydney seat he has held since 1994.
Polling suggests climate change was a major issue in that seat for voters, who instead elected an independent candidate, Zali Steggall. As prime minister in 2014, Abbott repealed a carbon tax introduced by a Labor government. Abbott was replaced by Turnbull the next year because of poor opinion polling, but he remained a government lawmaker.
A maverick senator who blamed the slaughter of 51 worshippers in two New Zealand mosques on the country’s immigration policies also lost his bid for election.
Fraser Anning was the target of widespread condemnation for railing against Muslim immigration within hours of the mass shootings in the New Zealand city of Christchurch in March. He faced more criticism later for physically striking a teenage protester who cracked a raw egg on his head and was censured by the Senate.
Senior Labor lawmaker Chris Bowen said his party may have suffered from what he conceded was an unusual strategy of pushing a detailed policy agenda through the election campaign.
Morrison began the day Saturday by campaigning in the island state of Tasmania, where the Liberals appeared to have gained two Labor-held seats. He then flew 900 kilometers (560 miles) home to Sydney to vote and to campaign in Sydney seats.
Shorten campaigned hard on more ambitious targets to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The government has committed Australia to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has promised a 45% reduction in the same time frame.
Shorten, a 52-year-old former labor union leader, has also promised a range of reforms, including the government paying all of a patients’ costs for cancer treatment and a reduction of tax breaks for landlords.
Morrison, a former tourism marketer, promised lower taxes and better economic management than Labor.
Both major parties promised that whoever won the election would remain prime minister until he next faces the voters’ judgment. The parties have changed their rules to make the process of lawmakers replacing a prime minister more difficult.
During Labor’s last six years in office, the party replaced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his deputy Julia Gillard, then dumped her for Rudd.