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Paris braces for new riots as 'Yellow Jacket' protests sweep France

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By Saphora Smith

PARIS — The French capital was shut down on Saturday as the city braced itself for what many fear will be the most violent protests in weeks of forceful anti-government demonstrations that have swept the country.

Protests that began last month against planned tax hikes on gas have since morphed into a wider rebuke of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency and an expression of anger at his attempts to reform France’s long-ailing economy.

Almost eight in ten people in France support the protests, according to a poll published last week.

Paris was largely deserted on Saturday morning as riot police waited on street corners and the first streams of protesters walked toward the Champs-Elysees, chanting the country’s iconic national anthem and waving the tricolor flag as they passed the presidential palace.

Yellow Vests protesters walk down the Champs Elysees on Saturday.IAN LANGSDON / EPA

Store fronts along the world-famous street — the scene of last week’s clashes between demonstrators and police — were barricaded behind plywood sheets in preparation for yet more violence.

Elsewhere hundreds of people were already in custody, authorities said, as police fired tear gas at protesters.

French authorities said they planned to deploy 8,000 police across the capital Saturday, as the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned “ultra-violent people” would try to descend into Paris’s boulevards.

“According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow,” Castaner told a press conference Friday.

Across town, Paris’s glittering museums and galleries — including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower — said they would not open their doors to the usual troop of holiday season tourists.

Soccer matches have also been called off across the country.

As Parisians prepared for what looked to be another weekend of destruction, the vast majority who spoke to NBC News on Friday said they supported the grievances of the so-called Yellow Jackets.

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