Concerns that the “yellow vests” riots — which have already left dozens of protesters and police officers injured, cars burned and national symbols, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Marianne statue, vandalized — could descend into armed clashes are growing among French officials, the broadcaster BFMTV reports.
The French newspaper Le Figaro has cited an unnamed source from the president’s office, the Elysee Palace, referring to the “yellow vests” movement: "They are putschists, we are witnessing putschists’ attempt". The daily newspaper also reports that the country’s intelligence services have alerted the president about "calls to kill and use weapons against parliamentarians, the government, officials and the military". According to Reuters, an official at Macron's office said that a warning has been issued that some protesters would come to Paris "to vandalize and to kill".
Ahead of what protesters refer to as Act IV, the French authorities warned about another wave of "great violence" and have braced themselves for new clashes.
65,000 security personnel will be mobilized across France to secure peace, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe revealed, while his government considered deploying anti-terrorism patrols, which are currently guarding public buildings, during protests, Reuters reported. Nevertheless, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called on citizens to stay in their homes over the weekend, while major football matches were cancelled.
Calls to join the protests on the fourth consecutive weekend are being spread online, with slogans reading that “France is fed up!! We will be there in bigger numbers, stronger, standing up for French people. Meet in Paris on Dec. 8".
"Saturday will be the final result, Saturday is the Elysee. We would like to go all to the Elysee", Eric Drouet, a representative of the "yellow vests", warned in a video published on his Facebook account.
The grassroots movement, known as the “yellow vests” due to the fluorescent jackets worn by participants, has grown into an amalgamation of both right- and left-wing forces. The protests, which started as a movement against a hike in fuel prices on 17 November, turned violent, leading to more than 600 people being injured and at least two deaths. The three-week demonstrations have forced the French government to drop a fuel tax rise from the 2019 budget and to voice readiness for dialogue.