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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Paris orders 2,000 police on the streets for Macron protests

Activists call for calm head of demonstrations on the one-year anniversary of president's inauguration

Paris protesters in helmets march during La Fete a Macron to protest policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Gerard Julien / AFP
Paris protesters in helmets march during La Fete a Macron to protest policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Gerard Julien / AFP

Paris police have ordered 2,000 police to the streets while activists called for calm ahead of the anniversary of President Emmanuel Macron's inauguration.

Thousands of demonstrators converged on central Paris to protest against Mr Macron’s sweeping economic reforms. Critics claim the changes favour companies and France's wealthiest citizens.

Riot police were deployed as marchers gathered from midday in the central Opera square for a protest dubbed a “Party for Macron”, a tongue-in-cheek “celebration” of the 40-year-old centrist’s first anniversary in power.

Organisers had urged participants to attend in a party mood – but the high security owed much to hundreds of black-clad youths having torched cars and a McDonald’s restaurant during traditional 1 May demonstrations in the capital, prompting fears that more “black bloc” protesters could hijack today’s event.

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Protest officials insisted the march would be “joyful and festive”, although government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux expressed fears the demonstration could turn violent. He noted that the protest’s name, “fête à Macron”, can have a double meaning in French – either celebrating someone, or trying to do them harm.

Some supporters of the left-wing populist La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party brandished anti-Macron banners with slogans including “down with the president of the rich” and “no to a social coup d’etat”.

Numerous university faculties have been blocked by protests against Mr Macron’s plans to make university access more selective, causing major disruption to students starting their summer exams. The Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris is facing sit-ins against Mr Macron's shake-up of the education system. Train drivers and others also object to Macron’s overhaul of France's national state-owned railway company, the SNCF, aimed at reducing its massive debts and making it more competitive.

Violence scarred May Day protests in Paris earlier this week. French police used water cannons and teargas to stop masked protesters smashing shop windows and throwing petrol bombs on Tuesday evening. More than 100 people were arrested.

While the government criticised the May Day riots, leftist politician Jean-Luc Melenchon said Mr Macron "can't stand any opposition".

A member of Mr Melenchon's La France Insoumise party initiated Saturday's demonstrations.

Mr Macron marks his first year as president on Monday.