France: Protest planned amid revelry; Macron defends agenda

  • French President Emmanuel Macron, gestures as he poses for a photograph after the recording of his New Year’s speech at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)

PARIS — Paris is holding its annual New Year’s Eve celebration on the Champs-Elysees under heavy security as protesters from an anti-government movement planned to gather Monday night on the famed avenue where a peaceful march at the beginning of the month led to violent clashes with police.

The yellow vest protesters, angry over taxes and what they see as President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business policies, called on social media for a “festive event” in the French capital and other cities. Macron said during a televised New Year’s address that the movement’s protests would not persuade his government to abandon its economic agenda.

Positive results from his policies “cannot be immediate,” the French leader said, pledging to make changes to France’s national unemployment insurance and pension system. He called for “recovering unity” and the “efforts of everybody” in 2019.

Macron also denounced as a “negation of France” a “heinous crowd” that has mingled with the yellow vest protesters to spread hate speech about “police forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals.”

The yellow vest movement is named for the fluorescent garments French motorists are required to carry for visibility during vehicle trouble or emergencies. The movement started to oppose a fuel tax increase, but expanded to encompass the cost of living and other concerns.

Hundreds of thousands of Parisians and tourists traditionally gather on the Champs-Elysees to celebrate New Year’s Eve and watch the light show at the Arc de Triomphe monument. To prevent protest-related unrest and the potential risk of an extremist attack, Paris police set up a security perimeter in the area, with bag searches, a ban on alcohol and traffic restrictions.

People peacefully walked on the avenue known for luxury shops and refined air on Monday evening.

France has deployed more than 147,000 security forces nationwide.

Previous New Year’s Eves in France have seen burned cars and other disorder.


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