French authorities were planning high security measures Tuesday for May Day demonstrations in Paris and across the country, as anti-government yellow vest protesters are expected to join trade union activists.
Paris police banned demonstrations in the Champs-Elysees avenue and the areas around the presidential palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The main unions’ protest is planned Wednesday from Montparnasse train station to Place d’Italie in southern Paris.
Police ordered shopkeepers, restaurants and cafes on the protesters’ path to close and are planning to search demonstrators’ bags and carry out identity checks.
Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said Tuesday the measures are aimed at protecting peaceful protesters as well as shopkeepers and other citizens.
Last year’s May Day demonstration and more recent yellow vest protests saw violence and looting in Paris and other cities.
Junior interior minister Laurent Nunez said some “radicalized” yellow vests, far-left activists and anarchists may try to disrupt the Paris march.
Speaking Tuesday at the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, Nunez said the police priority will be to “systematically intervene every time there are wrongdoings.”
Authorities are particularly wary of the black-clad, masked and hooded extremists who have joined in recent protests with the express goal of attacking police and damaging property. They often target symbols of capitalism or globalization, and turned out in the hundreds at last year’s May Day protest.
French President Emmanuel Macron last week tried to quell the yellow vest movement by announcing tax cuts for middle-class workers and an increase in pensions, amid other measures.
Many yellow vests consider the government’s plans insufficient, and want to keep alive the movement that started in November to oppose a fuel tax and quickly expanded into broader public rejections of Macron’s economic policies.
The movement was named after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars.