Versailles to close Saturday as precaution against protests

PARIS (AP) — France is bracing for a sixth straight Saturday of protests during which the palace of Versailles just outside Paris will be shut for the day despite expectations that the numbers taking to the streets will be down sharply.

The famous chateau that was home to succession of French kings until the French Revolution in 1789 and is now a big tourist attraction is to be closed as a precaution. Paris’ other big tourist hotspots such as the Louvre museum and the Eiffel Tower, which had closed a couple of weeks back, are staying open though.

Much of France, but particularly Paris, has endured weeks of protest by a nationwide movement that at times descended into violence.

The so-called yellow vest protesters — named after the fluorescent safety vests many don that are required in French cars — originally voiced opposition to a fuel tax hike but the movement grew to incorporate a myriad of other grievances in France.

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Earlier, the French National Assembly approved the measures announced by Macron, which also include tax-free overtime and a freeze on gas and electricity prices this winter. The measures are expected to cost an estimated 10 billion euros ($1.14 billion).

Authorities believe the protests are waning. Last week, for example, the number of protesters fell sharply to 66,000 after President Emmanuel Macron made a series of concessions to the protesters, including cancelling the fuel tax hike that stoked the protests.

According to figures released by the Interior ministry, just 3,680 yellow vest protesters were out and about across France on Thursday. The ministry did not say how many police officers will be deployed during Saturday’s demonstrations but insisted the response will be “proportionate and adapted.”

On Thursday, Macron made contact with protesters directly as he responded to a yellow vest petition on the website Change.org.

“I’ve heard your message,” Macron wrote.

“You are right. It is up to us to find solutions to make, together and in dialogue, this anger a chance.”

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