Yellow Vest protest in Paris continues for 4th week in a row

Demonstrators clash with police during the ‘yellow vests’ protest against higher fuel prices in Brussels. — Reuters

Rows of helmeted, thickly protected riot police blocked the demonstrators' passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the heart of presidential power.

About 89,000 police were deployed across France on Saturday, some 8,000 of them in Paris.

Last week, hundreds of people were arrested and scores injured in violence in Paris - some of the worst street clashes in the French capital for decades.

Many members of the protest movement, which began as resistance against a rise in taxes for diesel and gasoline, are calling for calm.

In a sign the concessions offered by the government may be starting to weaken support for the movement, two opinion polls showed a decline in popularity for the "yellow vests" on Friday. "Take care of Paris on Saturday because Paris belongs to all the French people".

Police were earlier searching people throughout zones of central Paris and confiscating goggles and gas masks from journalists who use them to protect against tear gas while covering demonstrations.

Protesters who came to Paris from Normandy described seeing officers block yellow-vested passengers from boarding at stops along their route.

Police posted a video on Twitter of officers tackling a protester and confiscating his unsafe material, which appeared to be primarily a tennis racket.

The Yellow Vest movement emerged spontaneously last month after French President Emmanuel Macron announced controversial hikes in fuel prices and a higher tax on fuel to encourage a transition towards greener energy.

Last weekend rioters set cars aflame, looted shops and defaced the Arc de Triomphe monument with graffiti.

A forklift truck driver who gave his name as Denis said he was planning, like others, to march on the presidential palace in anger against a leader who they say only looks out for the rich.

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Crowds were also gathering across town around the Bastille plaza.

Some could be held in the city centre on what is a major Christmas shopping weekend.

"At the national level, including Paris, we're at more than 700 detained with participation in the movement at 31,000 nationwide including 8,000 in Paris", he told France 2 television. No injuries have been reported.

Almost 90,000 police and gendarmes have been mobilised across the country, around 8,000 of them in the capital, officials have said, alongside a dozen VBRG armoured vehicles.

"We will do all we can so that today can be a day without violence, so that the dialogue that we started this week can continue in the best possible circumstances", Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on French television.

Mr Macron himself has been largely invisible in recent days, leaving his prime minister and government to try to negotiate with protesters.

The protesters began blocking roads, fuel depots and shopping centres around France on November 17 over soaring petrol prices that have hit people in the provinces who get around by auto.

Paris police, fearing that radical protesters could turn street furniture and construction materials into makeshift weapons, on Friday were removing all glass containers, railings and construction machines in high-risk areas.

Protesters also blocked roads, roundabouts and tollbooths elsewhere in France.

In the Netherlands, about 100 protesters gathered in a peaceful demonstration outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague.

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