UPDATES WITH NUMBER OF ARRESTED
By Yusuf Ozcan
PARIS (AA) – At least 317 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, 317 were arrested as police found they were carrying stones and hammers.
Protesters wearing bright yellow vests — dubbed the Yellow Vests — are gathering along the famous Champs-Elysees, where stores, restaurants, and banks were shut down as a 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 announced on Twitter that it will be closed Saturday due to the protests, and offered refunds.
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.
The demonstrators, who generally live in rural areas due to high rents in the cities, have called on Macron to cut fuel taxes and ease their economic difficulties.
At least three people have died during the riots while over 1,000 others have been injured, including 222 members of the security forces. Over 1,400 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.