Visiting Paris? Yellow Vests could wreak havoc on your plans

Bertrand Guay, AFP | A Yellow Vest protester adds to burning material near the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, on November 24, 2018.

If you’re a tourist in Paris, Saturday would be a good day to go to Versailles or, say, Giverny. Or anywhere outside of the city, because the threatened Yellow Vest protest promises once again to plunge the capital into chaos.


That’s not to say that the city won’t be safe – the police are deploying 89,000 security forces nationwide and about 8,000 forces and a dozen armoured vehicles in Paris to try to avoid anything like the destruction and mayhem that occured last weekend. Even then, the hotspots were largely avoidable. It’s just that, if you are a tourist, many of those hotspots are exactly where you will want to be.

The Champs-Élysées, for example, was the epicentre of last weekend’s chaos, so this is one to definitely avoid on this, the fourth weekend of protests – or Act IV, as its proponents are calling it. Stores on the famed thoroughfare have been told to keep their doors shut, protect their windows and remove outdoor furniture.

Most of them will simply close, as will the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Petit Palais, the Grand Palais, the Pompidou Centre and the Catacombs. Both the Garnier and Bastille opera houses have cancelled Saturday's performances, as have other theatres, and six Ligue 1 football matches have been postponed, including that of Paris Saint-German versus Montpellier. Many other museums have not yet specified what action they will take, so check with your destination before you head out.

However, the closures don’t have to mean that your weekend in Paris is ruined. Don’t forget there’s a Disneyland just a short train ride away. And they say you can get amazing deals on high-end brands at the La Vallée Village outlet centre – conveniently accessible by RER trains – and right now its Christmas decorations are up. Plus, getting your Christmas shopping done this early in the season is nothing to be sniffed at.

  • For more information on how the protests may disrupt traffic to and from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly international airports, follow @ParisAeroport for live updates, or check their website here.
  • For information on how transport lines in Paris will be affected, click here for buses, here for trains and get live updates on metro lines here. Click this link for the latest information on which metro stations are open.
  • The City of Paris has also listed the different tourist attractions, shops, parks and markets that will be closed in Paris on Saturday(in French only) here.

Unmellow Yellows

All the safeguards are in place to prevent a repeat of last weekend when, in the worst rioting in central Paris since 1968, demonstrators torched cars, looted shops and defaced the Arc de Triomphe. As a result, hundreds of people were arrested.

The protests have taken place every weekend since November 17. They arose from opposition to a proposed tax on fuel but have since grown into a broad challenge to President Emmanuel Macron and his policies, which are widely seen here in France as favouring the rich. The protesters' name comes from the fluorescent-yellow safety vests all French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

This weekend, authorities are braced for “significant violence” as demonstrators from both the far right and the far left are expected to converge on the capital, and be joined by a fair number of hooligans just along for the tumultuous ride. Authorities believe the latter were responsible for the worst of the violence last weekend.

Since the movement began, four people have died in the protests and hundreds of others have been injured.

If you must go out in Paris, avoid the trouble spots by keeping yourself informed of the protest route and giving it a wide berth. While the exact course is hard to predict, rallying points include the Champs-Élysées, Bastille, Denfert-Rochereau and the Eiffel Tower.

Gaffe-prone Macron

Faced with the deepest crisis of his presidency so far, Macron, who has made repeated gaffes that paint him as out of touch with non-elites, has been surprisingly absent and largely intransigent in face of the unrest, though the government did say it would annul next year’s fuel tax hike. However Macron's office also said he would stick to his decision to cut the wealth tax on high earners, which the Yellow Vests want rolled back.

Members of Macron’s government, though, have been more conciliatory. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said he was open to adopting new measures to help low-paid workers. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he was willing to accelerate tax cuts.

Despite the violence, the demonstrators seem to represent the sentiment of the majority of French citizens. An opinion poll conducted this week showed that 72 percent of those surveyed backed the protests. And the movement has inspired others, including students demonstrating against proposed educational reforms. Nearly 280 high schools across the country were disrupted this week, with more than 700 students being detained by police, AFP reported. Some of the youth torched rubbish bins and tossed Molotov cocktails.

In addition, two truck driver unions are planning an indefinite strike to begin Sunday night, and farmers have called for demonstrations every day next week.


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