France braced for 'day of rage' protests

Shops, museums, metro stations and the Tour Eiffel were due to close. Christmas markets, national soccer matches and countless other events have been canceled or hurt by the protests.

"According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told a news conference Friday.

Demonstrators clash with riot police at the Arc de Triomphe during a protest of the "yellow vests" against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris.

It is feared that the viral videos could further inflame the "yellow vest" protests, which have led to the worst rioting Paris has seen in decades.

Prominent "yellow vest" protester Benjamin Cauchy has called on Mr Macron to meet a delegation to defuse a situation that he said had brought France "to the brink of insurrection and civil war".

Dozens of people wearing face masks threw Molotov cocktails, torched trash bins and clashed with police in several cities during violent protests ahead of a call for nationwide demonstrations on Friday.

Authorities say some 89000 police will be mobilized across the country with some 8000 security forces and a dozen armored vehicles only in the capital Paris. They have also cordoned of Paris' boulevards and plan to shut tourist hotspots like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

Foreign governments are watching developments closely in one of the world´s most visited cities.

As it did last weekend, the U.S. Embassy advised Americans to avoid the demonstrations.

In a warning of impending violence, an MP for Macron´s party, Benoit Potterie, received a bullet in the mail on Friday with the words: "Next time it will be between your eyes". Police installed special reinforced barricades in the posh streets around the presidential Elysee palace.

The government this week scrapped planned fuel tax hikes planned for January - one of the protesters' main demands - and announced a string of other measures created to help low-income families.

Restoring the wealth tax has become a core demand of the "yellow vests", alongside the fuel tax rollback and an increase in the minimum wage.

The "yellow vest" protests began on Nov 17 in opposition to rising fuel taxes, but they have since ballooned into a broad challenge to Macron's pro-business agenda and style of governing.

Since then the movement has snowballed into a wider revolt against Macron´s economic policies and his top-down approach to power.

Protests at some 280 schools against stricter university entrance requirements have added to a sense of general revolt in France as the "yellow vest" protests rumble on.

The protesters accuse the centrist president of favouring the rich and city-dwellers over those trying to make ends meet in car-dependent rural and small-town France.

But Macron's office has said he will stick to his decision to cut a "fortune tax" on high-earners, abolished past year in a bid to boost investment.

But his climbdown on fuel taxes - meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure for a leader who had prided himself on not giving into street protests.

Macron, who has not spoken in public since he condemned last Saturday's disturbances while at the G20 summit in Argentina, will address the nation early next week, his office said.

"We're the ones who are going to eventually have to pay higher fuel prices", said Ines, one of around 150 high school students demonstrating in the southern Paris suburb of Cachan.

Vanessa Coleman

Comments