France to Use Military Forces During Next Yellow Vest Episode

(Bloomberg) -- The French government has decided to use anti-terrorism military forces to help secure public buildings during the next episode of grassroots Yellow Vest protests this Saturday.

The troops from Operation Sentinelle, who patrol cities across France as a deterrent to terrorism, won’t be sent into action against protesters and rioters, the government’s spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, said Wednesday after the weekly cabinet meeting.

“After seeing the new forms of violence Saturday, emergency measures will be taken to reinforce the reaction of the security forces,” Griveaux said, including “the reinforced mobilization of Sentinelle to protect official building and other fixed positions in the capital.”

President Emmanuel Macron and his government are scrambling to pull together a response after violence flared up again during demonstrations last weekend, with images of the battered Champs-Elysees beamed around the world.

“Individuals have decided to attack democracy and its symbols,” Griveaux said. “These are not demonstrators but rioters, and the distinction is very different. Demonstrations are protected by the law; rioting is not.”

The Yellow Vests have been protesting every Saturday since November, with demands ranging from lower taxes to better public services. While there were dramatic scenes late last year, recent protests had been poorly attended before last weekend. Most of Saturday’s vandalism was blamed on far-left “black bloc” activists who tag along just to wreak havoc.

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