France: 32 people arrested ahead of Yellow Vest protests

By Yusuf Ozcan

PARIS (AA) – At least 32 people were arrested in Paris ahead of planned Yellow Vest protests which started in mid-November forcing the government to scrap plans to raise fuel prices, local media reported on Saturday.

According to French media, 121 people were taken to police centers and 32 of them were arrested as police found out they were carrying stones and hammers.

Protesters wearing bright yellow vests –dubbed the Yellow Vests– are gathering at the famous Champs-Elysees avenue where stores, restaurants and banks were shut down as precaution against possible violence.

Security measures have been tightened in Paris ahead of the demonstrations. Dozens of armored vehicles and 89,000 troops –including 8,000 in Paris– will be on duty.

Some museums are also closed on Saturday. The Eiffel Tower’s management announced on its Twitter account that it will remain closed to the public Saturday due to demonstrations and visitors will be automatically refunded.

Thousands of yellow vest protesters have been gathering in major French cities including Paris since Nov. 17 to protest President Emmanuel Macron's controversial fuel tax hikes and the deteriorating economic situation in France.

The demonstrators, who generally live in rural areas due to high rents in the cities, called on Macron to cut fuel taxes and make economic arrangements to ease their lives.

At least three people have died during the riots while 1,043 others have been injured, including 222 members of the security forces. As many as 1,424 people have been arrested.

According to a recent survey, 84 percent of the French people — mostly from the middle-income group — support the protests.

Fuel prices in France have risen more than 20 percent this year.