Paris police chief Didier Lallement warned on Saturday ahead of a rally organised by the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) that there “can be no destruction and chaos on the Champs- Elysées”, where two demonstrations have been banned.
“Calm is required on this avenue, which is a showcase for our country, so I have prohibited these demonstrations,” Lallement said at a press conference at the Place de l’Etoile.
Some 2,300 persons had indicated their intention to join the rally on the Champs-Elysées, while 7,000 had shown an interest in doing so, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Police sources said 4,000 to 5,000 demonstrators were expected in Paris on Saturday, including 1,000 viewed as potentially violent.
On the other hand, two other processions were authorised, one departing from the Place de la Bourse, in the centre of Paris, and the other starting out at the Place Wagram in the west of the capital.
“I’m hearing talk of dictatorship, but I note that there are possibilities for demonstrations (…) as long as they are peaceful and there is no destruction,” the police chief stressed, calling for containment measures to be respected.
Without giving overall figures on the size of the police mobilisation, he said an “appropriate” and “sizeable” number was being deployed, with “mobility and reactivity”, including 160 members of the BRAV-M anti-riot motorcycle brigade.
Lallement confirmed that each bearer of a defence bullet launcher, LBD, would be assisted by a “supervisor” to help in the “mastery and correct use” of the weapon. He also said the old sting-ball grenades had been withdrawn and replaced with a new, reputedly less dangerous, model, as was announced on Friday by the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.
The Paris police chief described as “ infantile” a call for “ civil disobedience” made by one of the leaders of the Yellow Vests, Jérôme Rodrigues, in refusing to show his identity card in order to slow down police checks.
“Our deployment is calibrated to be able to carry out these verifications,” he said.
The Yellow Vests, an anti-elite grassroot movement fighting for more fiscal and social justice, was launched on 17 November 2018. It is seeking a second wind after a first year in which it shook France with occupations of roundabouts and demonstrations, some of them violent.