Crowds of yellow-vested protesters angry at President Emmanuel Macron and France's high taxes tried to march on the presidential palace Saturday, surrounded by exceptional numbers of police bracing for outbreaks of violence after the worst rioting in Paris in decades.
The heavy security will put central Paris in a virtual lockdown Saturday against what the interior minister called "radicalized and rebellious people", who authorities believe will join members of the "yellow vest" movement that has been holding anti-government demonstrations.
About 8,000 police will be deployed across Paris, equipped with a dozen barricade-busting armored vehicles that could be used for the first time in a French urban area since riots in 2005.
Macron's government had warned that the yellow vest protests had created a "monster" and that the Paris actions would be hijacked by radicalized and rebellious crowds and become the most risky yet after three weeks of demonstrations. The Nicolas wine chain, one of France's biggest retailers, canceled all its wine tasting sessions scheduled for Saturday.
Mr Macron, who has not spoken in public since he condemned last Saturday's disturbances while at the G20 summit in Argentina, will address the nation early next week, his office said. The Eiffel Tower and famous museums the Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre are closed.
Brussels police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said that around 400 protesters were gathered in the area.
Police deployed tear gas and stun grenades after getting cornered, with some agitators starting to throw plastic bottles.
Rows of helmeted, thickly protected riot police blocked the demonstrators' passage down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward the heart of presidential power. And while Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, that hasn't defused the anger - embodied by the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists are required to keep in their cars.
President Trump meanwhile twisted the knife, tweeting Saturday morning: "The Paris Agreement isn't working out so well for Paris".
"At the national level, including Paris, we're at more than 700 detained with participation in the movement at 31,000 nationwide including 8,000 in Paris", he told France 2 television.
Saturday's march, which has gathered 2000 participants in Paris alone, wants France to reach the goal set during the 2015 Paris accords to limit global warming to "well below" a rise of 2°C and to pursue efforts for the 1.5° goal as the UN's COP24 conference is still taking place in Poland.
Some could be held in the city centre on what is a major Christmas shopping weekend.
But his climbdown on fuel taxes - meant to help France transition to a greener economy - marks a major departure for a leader who had prided himself on not giving into street protests. On Friday, police arrested two other men in Montauban after finding a cache of 28 Molotov cocktails and three improvised explosive devices. "We know that the violent people are only strong because they hide themselves within the yellow vests, which hampers the security forces".
In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, a few hundred protesters in the high-visibility vests walked peacefully across the Erasmus Bridge singing and handing flowers to passers-by.
"People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment".
Weapons have also been confiscated from Yellow Vest protestors including items such as paving stones, slingshots, hammers and other items that have been deemed weapons.
The "yellow vest" protests began on November 17 in response to a sharp increase in diesel taxes.