Security tight on Champs-Élysées as Yellow Vests call New Year protest
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France deployed more than 147,000 security forces nationwide to gird for New Year's Eve unrest as Yellow Vest protesters joined the public revelry on the famed Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris.
The interior ministry said the heavy security measures were needed because of a "high terrorist threat" and concerns about "non-declared protests."
Police in Paris put a security perimeter around the Champs-Élysées, the site of an annual light show and celebration, to stave off violent demonstrations by the so-called Yellow Vest protesters.
But the expected protest, timed to coincide with President Emmanuel Macron's traditional New Year's Eve message, remained small and peaceful.
"This feels like a New Year's Eve like any other," said FRANCE 24's Shona Bhattacharyya, reporting from the famed Paris avenue.
The "non-violent and festive" demonstration was organised on Facebook where nearly 9,000 people indicated they planned to attend -- less than the 12,000 police who were on duty in Paris.
The Yellow Vest movement has waned dramatically in the last fortnight, but the prospect of demonstrators mixing with revellers and tourists presented a new headache for the stretched Paris police force.
"What can we expect? Disorder," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters as he visited a fire station in Paris. "What I see with the Yellow Vests is a desire to be harmful, not to demonstrate."
The interior ministry said extra security across France would focus on popular gathering places, public transportation, roads and shopping areas.
France remains on high alert due to the threat of terrorism, with the latest attack dating to December 11 when five people were killed by a gunman at a Christmas market in Strasbourg.
New Year's Eve also sees hundreds of cars set on fire in what has become a grim annual tradition that ties up police officers.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
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