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  1. ITV Report

Eiffel Tower among sites to close in move to curb Paris protests

The Eiffel Tower in Paris will be closed on Saturday as French authorities tighten security to prevent another outbreak of violence following three weeks of anti-government protests.

In addition to the 8,000 police forces that will be deployed in the French capital, the Paris police prefect has identified 14 high-risk sectors that will be cleared out.

Fearing protesters could cause damage on the streets, Paris police will remove all glass containers, railings and machinery in areas, including the Champs-Elysees avenue.

ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine said: "Macron was elected as an agent of change and if he abandons his reform agenda, his government won't last very long."

Across the country some 89,000 police will be mobilised, up from 65,000 last weekend when more than 130 people were injured and over 400 were arrested in the worst street violence seen in the country in decades.

Authorities have also cancelled six French league football matches this weekend around the country.

Students gather inside the closed Tolbiac university in Paris Credit: Christophe Ena/AP

Since the unrest began on November 17 in reaction to a sharp increase in diesel taxes, four people have been killed in accidents.

The protesters are collectively referred to as the “yellow vest” movement, in reference to the fluorescent safety outfit French motorists keep in their cars.

Protesters wearing yellow vests stand by a blockade outside the French oil giant Total fuel depot in Gennevilliers, outside Paris Credit: Michel Euler/AP

Amid the unrest, French union officials and prominent politicians across the political spectrum have urged calm especially as French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike that triggered the movement.

However, the climbdown did not placate protesters and their demands have now expanded to other issues hurting French workers, retired people and students, and the protesters are not unified and have no leaders, meaning negotiations cannot take place.

Critics of Mr Macron believe one of the contributing factors to the protests is a lack of popularity for the President who is seen by many to be part of the lucky elite.

On Friday, thousands of students jumped on the protest bandwagon, marching through Paris demanding plans for education reforms be dropped.

Fears things could turn ugly again over the weekend emerged after pictures surfaced of more than 140 students being made to kneel with their hands on their heads after being arrested in Mantes-la-Jolie, just outside of Paris.

Many witnesses said the students had been protesting peacefully. Credit: AP/Twitter/@Obs_Violences

Some of those arrested were forced to kneel facing a wall, and were under the age of 16.

Many people were angered by the apparently heavy-handed tactics carried out by the police, with many witnesses saying the students were protesting peacefully.

The mother of 17-year-old Yassar, one of the students arrested, said she had heard nothing from her son since Thursday and was growing increasingly concerned for him.

Some of those made to kneel facing a wall were under-16. Credit: AP/Twitter/@Obs_Violences

The rioting has also had an economic impact at the height of the holiday shopping season.

Rampaging groups last weekend threw cobblestones through Paris shop windows and looted valuables in some of the city’s richest neighbourhoods.

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The national Federation of French markets say Christmas markets have been “strongly impacted” and its members registered “an average fall of their estimated figures between 30% and 40% since the beginning of the movement of the yellow vests”.

In addition to the closure of the Eiffel Tower, many shops and museums across France, including the Orsay Museum and the Grand Palais, will keep their doors shut on Saturday for safety reasons.

“We need to protect culture sites in Paris but also everywhere in France,” culture minister Franck Riester told RTL radio.

A group of demonstrators wearing yellow vests pose near Martigues in the south of France Credit: Claude Paris/AP

In Paris, police officers will be equipped with a dozen armoured vehicles for the first time in a French urban area since 2005.

“These vehicles can be very useful to protect buildings,” said Stanislas Gaudon, the head of police union Alliance.

“And if they set up barricades, we can quickly clear out the space and let our units progress.”