Turkey issues travel warning for France, citing violent protests

Cristina Cross
December 3, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron planned to hold an emergency security meeting Sunday with his prime minister and interior minister.

Some 136,000 demonstrators, a lot of them peaceful, were counted across the country on Saturday, the interior ministry said Sunday in updated figures.

The "gilets jaunes" protesters, so-called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law, are complaining at a sharp increase in diesel taxes.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he was "shocked by the violence of such a symbol of France".

Opposition politicians condemned the violence but also criticised the government's response.

Reports of a state of emergency being introduced - giving extra powers to police and placing troops on stand-by - have been ruled out for the moment.

It poses the most formidable challenge yet to Mr Macron's presidency, with the escalating violence and depth of public anger against his economic reforms catching the French leader off-guard and battling to regain control.

Mr Macron said those bent on causing chaos "betray the cause they pretend to serve".

Speaking in Buenos Aires before he flew home to Paris, Macron said he welcomed the views of protesters but vowed that those who participated in wreaking havoc would be held responsible for their behaviour. The president visited some of the flashpoint locations on Sunday.

Enraged protesters in France have objected rising taxes in the country and Macron's leadership, which led to the arrest of at least 107 demonstrators.

The "yellow vest" movement erupted on social media in October and has since become a wider protest against Macron, who is accused of failing to recognize the rising cost of living that has left many struggling.

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Many in the country believe they have to pay high taxes but get little in return in the way of social benefits that are largely created to aid the poor, and that they are being left behind by Mr Macron's policies.

Three people have been killed in relation to the protests since November 17. Although a few blamed provocatively heavy-handed policing, it was clear they had been joined by masked activists prepared for trouble.

Nunez said 5,000 police were deployed in Paris to try to contain the protests.

While several dozens were allowed into the avenue after an ID check and search, many others - some wearing gas masks or ski goggles - remained behind and fought police manning barricades and water cannons.

Mr Castaner had already said on Thursday that "far left and far right activists" were preparing for fresh clashes with the police.

At the height of Saturday's disturbances, some of Paris's renowned landmarks and upmarket areas - including the Trocadero, boulevards close to the Arc de Triomphe and the rue de Rivoli - were turned into battlegrounds.

Access to the Champs-Elysee avenue was closed to cars and strictly monitored by police with identity checks and bag inspections. Everyone's fed up. He's got to listen more", said Amaya Fuster, eyeing graffiti daubed on a Printemps department store window that read: "There's enough money in the coffers of businessmen. Firefighters came under attack and one demonstrator was hurt when struck by iron railings that were toppled over in the Tuileries gardens neighbouring the Louvre.

Almost 190 fires were put out and six buildings set alight, the interior ministry said.

Protesters threw molotov cocktails into the Haute-Loire District Governor's Office.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a post on Twitter she was "indignant" about the violence, and said "our country is faced with a profound crisis which can only be resolved by dialogue".

Interior Minister Castaner attributed the violence to "specialists in destruction".

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