Macron's government may face no-confidence vote

The heavy security will put central Paris in a virtual lockdown Saturday against what the interior minister called "radicalized and rebellious people", who authorities believe will join members of the "yellow vest" movement that has been holding anti-government demonstrations.

Some 89,000 security personnel will be deployed across the country on Saturday ahead of the fourth weekend of planned rallies, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday.

Had the government and President reacted immediately three weeks ago to discontent with the fuel tax, tensions would nearly certainly have been soothed.

He refused suggestions that he resign in the wake of the worst riots in Paris since 1968. The demonstrators have also shown an ability to adapt, however, as they have moved from a specific anti-tax protest into a wider movement to show discontent with the government.

Seeking to regain the initiative after weeks of civil unrest, the government appeared ready to offer concessions.

"We are facing people who are not here to protest, but to smash and we want to have the means to not give them a free rein", Philippe told TF1 television's evening news program on Thursday, revising an earlier figure of 65,000 forces.

The Eiffel Tower has announced that it will be closed to visitors on Saturday due to the protests called in the French capital by the yellow vest movement.

About 8,000 police will be deployed across Paris, equipped with a dozen barricade-busting armored vehicles that could be used for the first time in a French urban area since riots in 2005.

Police have come under criticism for failing to prevent damage to the Arc de Triomphe and stores along the famed Champs-Elysees in central Paris, as well as for violence against protesters.

"No tax is worth putting the nation's unity in danger", Philippe said in a live televised address.

The protests have no identifiable leadership and gained momentum via social media, encompassing a range of participants from the anarchist far left to the nationalist far right, and plenty of moderates in between.

The Paris Opera has cancelled planned performances Saturday on its two Parisian sites.

Security sources said the government was considering using troops now used on anti-terrorism patrols to protect public buildings.

The government is likely hoping the suspension of the fuel hikes will take some heat out of the protests, which brought an estimated 36,000 people onto the streets of France on Saturday alone.

Protesters have voiced concern over the high cost of living and urged for higher salaries and lower taxes as well as Macron's resignation. But protesters said his reforms are for the rich and he doesn't understand the needs of poor people.

The silence and scorn of the "En Marche" representatives (President Macron's party) and Ministers over the fuel crisis only fueled the wrath over the past few days, made worst by TV news channels apparently rejoicing in the exciting non-stop mayhem taking place all over the country.

The unrest has exposed deep-seated resentment among non-city dwellers with a perception that Macron is out of touch with the middle class and blue-collar labourers.

Scores of protesting teens clashed with police at a high school west of Paris on Thursday, according to French news reports, as part of nationwide student actions over university admissions procedures and rising administrative fees. They see the 40-year-old former investment banker as closer to big business.

Amid his domestic woes, Macron also saw his "friend" US President Donald Trump weigh in on Twitter.

  • Rogelio Becker