Police prep Paris for May 1 amid gilets jaunes threat

A strong police presence is planned for today's May 1 marches in Paris and across France

An “exceptional number” of 7,400 police and gendarmerie have been stationed in Paris in anticipation of today’s May 1 protest marches, in context of the radicalised gilets jaunes and "black bloc" movement.

Minister for the interior Christophe Castaner confirmed the number, and said that Paris had “very serious worries” about the protests expected to hit the capital on today’s traditional Fête du Travail.

In addition to the traditional and peaceful May Day union marches, authorities were today expecting between 1,000-2,000 radical "black blocs" - some even from abroad - who it feared could be planning to “wreak disorder”.

This could also be worsened by “several thousand ‘ultrajaunes (militant or violent gilets jaunes)’” who were also planning to march, Mr Castaner said.

The severe measures appear to have been prompted in part by radicals calling for May 1 to be “a day of Apocalypse” for authorities, especially in the wake of President Macron’s controversial national address last week.

Mr Castaner said: “It is the Fête du Travail, not of violence.”

At the time of writing, more than 35 people had already been arrested in Paris, and large groups of gilets jaunes had already been seen gathering at stations.

In addition, a list banning named people who authorities specifically fear may come from abroad to take part in May 1 marches has been distributed.

Protests along the Champs-Élysées and the stricken cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris have been banned. More than 580 shops and businesses along the routes of the anticipated marches have been forced to close by decree, from Montparnasse to Place d’Italie.

Any unauthorised gatherings will be quickly dispersed, Paris police head Didier Lallement said. He added that police officers have been given extra authority to act without waiting for orders from above.

He said: “This autonomy allows them, in a considered manner, to stop any imminent or likely damage.”

Police have also been mobilised into 190 motorbikes, with two police officers each, to allow them to “quickly reach” any violent areas - although the bikes are not permitted to ride alongside any peaceful protests or marches.

Law enforcement will also have access to drones with cameras, “allowing them to see what is happening from street level”, Mr Lallement said. Images will be sent to units on the ground further away, allowing police to make decisions quickly.

During a minister council meeting this week, President Emmanuel Macron said that the police response to any “black blocs” - anarchist-style protesters who dress in black and cover their faces - should be “extremely firm” if the movement descends into violence.

Three Spanish “black bloc” members - who were “heavily armed”, according to reports - were already arrested in Paris last night (April 30).

Train stations and RER stops have been under surveillance since last night, alongside bag checks in operation at most major transport hubs.

Paris public security authority la Direction de la Sécurité Publique de l’Agglomération Parisien (DSPAP) said: “Particular attention will be paid to trains coming from abroad.”

Authorities were also checking cars and buses with outside licence plates (those from outside Paris or abroad) coming in and out of suburban communes.

Paris is not the only city in France expecting large protest marches, however - despite some calling for it to be “the riot capital”.

Protests of up to 4,000 people are also expected in Rennes, Nancy, and Toulouse. Both Rennes and Toulouse have banned large-scale movements in their town centres.

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