French yellow vest protests met with huge security in Paris

Protesters in Brussels clashing with police today near European institutions. – EPA pic

Hello and welcome to the Guardian's live coverage of the fourth weekend of gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests in France.

"I can't let him live in a country where the poor are exploited".

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". He said none of the students were injured.

Hundreds of businesses around Paris - especially those around the Champs-Elysees shopping district - are expected to close this weekend as well.

Now the demands of the "yellow vest" movement - named for the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists keep in their cars - are pressing for a wider range of benefits from the government to help French workers, retirees and students.

While scattered scuffles broke out on Saturday around central Paris, the action seemed less violent overall at noon than at the same time a week ago, when crowds defaced the Arc de Triomphe, one of the city's most revered monuments, and rampaged in the surrounding high-end neighbourhood.

Authorities deployed barricade-busting armored vehicles and 8,000 police in the capital alone.

The grassroots movement began as resistance against a rise in taxes for diesel and gasoline, but quickly expanded to encompass frustration at stagnant incomes, the growing cost of living and other grievances.

The US embassy issued a warning to Americans in Paris to "keep a low profile and avoid crowds", while Belgium, Portugal and the Czech Republic advised citizens to postpone any planned visits.

Protests at dozens of schools over stricter university entrance requirements, and a call by farmers for demonstrations next week, have added to a sense of a government under siege.

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President Emmanuel Macron's government is deploying 89,000 security forces around the country for Saturday's protests against his reforms.

The 40-year-old former investment banker, dubbed "the president of the rich" by critics, has so far ruled out re-imposing the "fortune tax" on high-earners, arguing it is necessary to boost investment and create jobs.

The climbdown over the fuel tax - meant to help France move to a greener economy - marks a major shift for Mr Macron, who has previously vowed not to be swayed, like previous presidents, by large street protests.

Macron himself, the target of much of the protesters' ire, has been largely invisible in recent days, leaving his prime minister and government to try to negotiate with protesters.

The protesters began blocking roads, fuel depots and shopping centres around France on November 17 over soaring petrol prices that have hit people in the provinces who get around by vehicle.

So far authorities have detained 343 people amid exceptional security.

Parts of Paris looked as if they were bracing for a hurricane, with boards on windows covering up the Christmas decorations.

Internet users have voiced their utmost outrage over recently released videos sporting French high school students standing on their knees, with their hands on their heads, as helmeted police officers are shown standing nearby grabbing their batons.

"It's with an enormous sadness that we'll see our city partially brought to a halt, but your safety is our priority", Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a statement.

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