Louvre, Eiffel Tower close in Paris amid mass, violent protests

A fourth weekend of violent protests in France that first erupted over a proposed hike in the country’s fuel tax prompted national landmarks such as the Louvre and Eiffel Tower to close on Saturday.

“We cannot take the risk when we know the threat,” Culture Minister Franck Riester told RTL radio, according to Reuters. He added that far-right and far-left agitators were planning to take over the protests, staged by people known as the “yellow jackets.”

The Louvre museum, the Orsay museum, the two operas and the Grand Palais are among the sites that will be closed, according to Riester. A week ago, protesters stormed, vandalized and defaced the Arc de Triomphe, the 19th-century arch that’s one of France’s most well-known landmarks.

Paris police also reportedly asked dozens of shops and restaurants around the Champs Elysees and Bastille, which have been some of the main spots of the protests, to close. On Saturday, heavily armed French police used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters.

More than 5,000 demonstrators gathered in the center of Paris early Saturday, matched by 8,000 police officers and at least 12 armored vehicles, according to Fox News. At least 500 people were arrested.

High taxes in France have been the source of discontent and unrest among French residents. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday postponed a proposed hike in the country’s tax on gas and diesel fuel, intended to encourage more usage of electric vehicles, but it doesn’t seem to have derailed the protests.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who swept into office in 2017 as an economic reformist, has said the tax is necessary to fight climate change and meet budget deficit reduction targets, but critics have slammed him as a president for the rich.

The French capital attracted more than 40 million visitors in 2017, according to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, and drew in more than $11.7 billion in tourism spending.

The U.S. State Department has upgraded its travel advisory to a level 2 for France, warning travelers to exercise increased caution because of the protests.

France topped the list of most taxed countries in 2017, according to data published this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.