Student gunman kills 1, wounds others at California high school

Student gunman kills 1, wounds others at California high school
By Alan Devall

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (Reuters) – A California high school student dressed in black is suspected of having opened fire on campus on Thursday, killing at least one person and wounding several others before he was arrested, officials said.

“Suspect is in custody and being treated at a local hospital,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Twitter.

In addition to a dead female, two males were in critical condition and another was in good condition, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital said on Twitter.

“We believe at this time that there is only one suspect but we are actively investigating and following all leads,” the Santa Clarita Valley branch of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter.

The suspect was described by police as an Asian male and a student at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Los Angeles.

A weapon was recovered at the scene, a police officer told NBC television.

The incident marked yet another school shooting in the United States, where repeated mass shootings in recent years have intensified the debate about gun control and the constitutional right for citizens to keep and bear arms.

Video from local NBC television showed a line of students marching away from the school and a row of police and fire department vehicles parked out front.

“I was really, really scared. I was shaking,” one female student told NBC television, adding that she saw one person lying on the ground covered in blood.

The student said she was doing homework when people started running, and she hid under a table until police entered the building.

The mother of student Anthony Peters told NBC he was still on lockdown inside the school but had texted that he was uninjured.

“One of the teachers said, ‘There is an active shooter. I heard the shots and saw three kids get shot,'” Peters’ mother told NBC.

Some of the wounded were being treated in a grassy area on the school’s campus, the Los Angeles Times reported. At least one injured person was found in the school’s choir room, authorities told the newspaper.

Some 2,300 students attend the school, which is made up of more than a dozen buildings.

The scene at Saugus High School was reminiscent of other recent mass shootings at schools across the United States, including the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student with an assault gun killed 17 people on Feb. 14, 2018.

The Valentine’s Day massacre at Stoneman ignited a nationwide student-led movement, calling for school and gun safety. In August, survivors of that shooting released a sweeping gun-control plan that would ban assault-style rifles and take other steps with the aim of halving U.S. firearms deaths and injuries within a decade.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, where two teenagers went on a rampage, fatally shooting 12 students and a teacher and wounding more than 20 others before killing themselves.

“Speechless about the shooting in Southern California,” tweeted Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, who was one of the students who organized rallies and lobbying efforts in Florida’s capital Tallahassee and Washington following the shooting.

“Sending love and strength to the whole community,” Kasky added.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)

Dallas orders curfew after tornado shreds homes; thousands without power

Dallas orders curfew after tornado shreds homes; thousands without power
(Reuters) – Police declared a curfew on Monday in parts of Dallas where a powerful tornado tore apart homes and flipped cars, leaving tens of thousands without power for a second night.

Three people were reported hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after the Sunday storm ripped through north Dallas with maximum wind speeds of 140 mph (225 kph), according to the National Weather Service.

Emergency management workers went door to door in areas such as Preston Hollow and Richardson, checking homes without roofs or crushed by fallen trees, tagging structures with orange spray paint.

“#DallasTornado you took my job! my school!” one Twitter user, Monica Badillo, posted, along with images of shattered windows and debris at Primrose School in Preston Hollow, where she said she worked.

The Dallas Police Department (DPD) asked residents to stay indoors between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and told non-residents to stay out of areas where the twister left a miles-long swath of destruction.

“DPD is urging residents to remain vigilant and not enter the impacted areas for their own safety,” the department said, adding it had received reports of looting that had so far turned out to be false.

Dozens of residents were expected to spend the night at a leisure complex turned into a shelter near Love Field Airport, city authorities said.

The winds were powerful enough to cave in a Home Depot <HD.N> do-it-yourself store, leaving a mangled mess of ceiling beams.

The tornado caused traffic chaos, with numerous roads blocked and dozens of stop lights out, transport authorities said.

Fire rescue officials said it would take another day to make a final assessment of the destruction, with less than half of the affected area checked by nightfall.

About 42,000 people were without power by Monday evening, according to utility firm Oncor, which pressed helicopters and drones into its effort to find and fix damaged lines.

Some residents should prepare for a possible multi-day outage as destroyed electric equipment is rebuilt, it added.

Although no fatalities were reported in the Dallas area, severe storms were blamed for at least three deaths in Oklahoma and one in Arkansas, state authorities said.

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Gabriella Borter in New York and Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Clarence Fernandez)

Hong Kong police break up new protest with rubber bullets, tear gas

Protesters erect the Lady Liberty Hong Kong statue during the "No White Terror No Chinazi" rally in Chater Garden, Hong Kong, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

By Marius Zaharia and Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray on Friday to clear protesters outside a subway station on the densely populated Kowloon peninsula, the latest clash in 14 weeks of sometimes violent anti-government demonstrations.

Hundreds of protesters, many of them masked and dressed in black, took cover behind umbrellas and barricades made from street fencing. Some had broken through a metal grill to enter the station where they pulled down signs, broke turnstiles and daubed graffiti on the walls.

Protestors stand behind a burning barricade during a demonstration in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Protestors stand behind a burning barricade during a demonstration in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, China September 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

“We’re angry at the police and angry at the government,” said Justin, 23, dressed in black and wearing a hoodie. “Police was very brutal with us at this station. We cannot let them get away with it.”

Protesters had gathered outside Prince Edward station in Mong Kok, one of the world’s most densely populated regions, where police had fired beanbag guns and used pepper spray to clear demonstrators this week.

They withdrew when police fired rubber bullets, but regrouped in smaller pockets to light fires in the street from wooden pallets, cardboard boxes and other debris. Firemen were dousing the flames.

“The police will use appropriate force to conduct a dispersal operation and warn all protesters to stop all illegal acts and leave immediately,” police said in a statement.

There was no immediate official word of arrests or injuries. Both Mong Kok and Prince Edward stations were closed.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced measures this week to try to restore order in the Chinese-ruled city, including the formal withdrawal of a bill that triggered the demonstrations. The law would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, despite the city having an independent judiciary dating back to British colonial rule.

But the demonstrations, which began in June, had long since morphed into a broader call for more democracy and many protesters have pledged to fight on, calling Lam’s concessions too little, too late.

“No China” was daubed over walls along the key north-south artery of Nathan Road.

“The four actions are aimed at putting one step forward in helping Hong Kong to get out of the dilemma,” Lam told reporters during a trip to China’s southern region of Guangxi. “We can’t stop the violence immediately.”

Apart from withdrawing the bill, she announced three other measures to help ease the crisis, including a dialogue with the people.

Medical students hold hands as they form a human chain during a protest against the police brutality, at the Faculty of Medicine in The University of Hong Kong, China, September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

Medical students hold hands as they form a human chain during a protest against the police brutality, at the Faculty of Medicine in The University of Hong Kong, China, September 5, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

WEEKEND PLANS FOR THE AIRPORT

Demonstrations have at times paralyzed parts of the city, a major Asian financial hub, amid running street battles between protesters and police who have responded with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons. Violent arrests of protesters, many in metro stations, have drawn international attention.

The crowds were expected to swell into the night, as the city braces for weekend demonstrations aiming to disrupt transport links to the airport.

The airport announced that only passengers with tickets would be allowed to use the Airport Express train service on Saturday, boarding in downtown Hong Kong. The train would not stop en route, on the Kowloon peninsula. Bus services could also be hit, it said.

The measures are aimed at avoiding the chaos of last weekend, when protesters blocked airport approach roads, threw debris on the train track and trashed the MTR subway station in the nearby new town of Tung Chung in running clashes with police.

Global credit rating agency Fitch Ratings on Friday downgraded Hong Kong’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating to “AA” from “AA+”.

Fitch said it expects that public discontent is likely to persist despite the concessions to certain protester demands.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue of Hong Kong with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, saying a peaceful solution was needed.

“I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted,” Merkel said.

‘RETURN TO ORDER’

Li told a news conference with Merkel “the Chinese government unswervingly safeguards ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people'”.

Beijing supported the territory’s government “to end the violence and chaos in accordance with the law, to return to order, which is to safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability”, Li added.

Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” formula which guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland. Many Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is eroding that autonomy.

China denies the accusation of meddling and says Hong Kong is its internal affair. It has denounced the protests, warning of the damage to the economy and the possible use of force to quell the unrest.

In addition to calling for a withdrawal of the extradition bill and the release of those arrested for violence, protesters also want an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality, retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.

The protests have presented Chinese President Xi Jinping with his greatest popular challenge since he came to power in 2012.

(Additional reporting by Felix Tam, Jessie Pang, Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok, Noah Sin, Kai Pfaffenbach and Joe Brock; Andreas Rinke in Beijing; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel and Frances Kerry)

At least 24 police officers hurt in Memphis street clashes after marshals kill black man

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – At least two dozen police officers were injured in overnight clashes with protesters, some throwing rocks, in Memphis, Tennessee, after U.S. Marshals Service agents fatally shot a black man during an attempted arrest, officials said on Thursday.

The man, identified as 20-year-old Brandon Webber, was shot by the agents after he rammed his vehicle into their vehicles as they sought to arrest him on multiple warrants at about 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the working-class neighborhood of Frayser, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Public records show that Webber was arrested five times, for driving violations and on charges that included possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana. The outcome of those arrests was not clear from the records. The bureau said Webber was carrying an unspecified weapon when he got out of his vehicle.

At least 24 officers and deputies were injured, with six hospitalized, during the confrontation, Mayor Jim Strickland said in a statement, adding that two journalists also were injured. The injuries were mostly minor, police said, and the crowd eventually dispersed. It was not clear how many civilians were hurt or whether anyone was arrested.

Shortly before he was shot, Webber posted a live video on Facebook that showed him in a car, rapping and apparently smoking a marijuana cigarette. In the video, he looked out the window and said he saw police. With a laugh, he looked directly into the camera and said the officers would “have to kill me.”

Authorities did not state the reason for the arrest warrants.

The tense scene afterward raised the possibility of more disturbances in the predominantly black city, evoking memories of a string of sometimes violent protests against police brutality that broke out in other cities in recent years. Those clashes, notably many days of protests after an unarmed black man was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Marshals Service, an arm of the U.S. Justice Department, arrests fugitives, among other roles.

As news of the death spread, an angry crowd estimated at about 300 people gathered in the streets. Some threw rocks and spat at the police, the mayor said in his statement. Police strapped on protective riot gear and tried to control the crowd by spraying chemicals, according to officials and media reports. Video footage of the protests showed one man bashing a police car with a chair. The mayor said “multiple police cars” were vandalized.

Leslie Earhart, a spokeswoman for the bureau, declined to provide further information about the shooting while the investigation was ongoing, including the type of weapon Webber was reported to have had, the reason for the arrest warrants, and whether Webber’s father and neighbors were correct when they said Webber had been shot between 16 and 20 times.

Dave Oney, a spokesman for the Marshals Service, declined to say why marshals were seeking to arrest Webber.

The Facebook page for Webber, who was a father, was filled with tributes from friends mourning his death.

“The U.S. Marshals killed my son,” Sonny Webber, Brandon Webber’s father, said in a brief telephone interview. “He just had his first daughter a couple of weeks ago, and another daughter on the way.”

The younger Webber was also the father of a 2-year-old son, and had planned to attend the University the Memphis in August, his father said.

Tami Sawyer, an elected member of the board of county commissioners, said on Twitter many people in the crowd were enraged by the belief that Webber had been shot more than a dozen times.

The mayor chastised the protesters in his statement. “Let me be clear,” Strickland wrote, “the aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay and Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

New Mexico blast involving fireworks injures several firefighters

Smoke from an explosion is seen in Roswell, New Mexico, U.S., June 5, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Roswell Today/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Several firefighters were injured on Wednesday, two seriously, in an explosion at a building in Roswell, New Mexico, where fireworks were being stored for the city’s annual July Fourth celebrations, police and city officials said.

The blast occurred shortly after noon at a building on the grounds of the Roswell International Air Center, a commercial airport on the southern outskirts of the town, said Todd Wildermuth, a spokesman for the city.

He said about a dozen firefighters were in and around the building “doing some preparation work” for the city’s upcoming July Fourth Independence Day fireworks display when the explosion occurred.

He said two firefighters suffered serious injuries and were taken to local hospitals. A number of others who sustained minor injuries were treated on the scene.

The cause of the blast was under investigation, he said. The fireworks storage building, at the far west end of the airport property, is far enough away from the airport itself that flight operations were not affected, Wildermuth said.

Roswell, a city of about 48,000 residents in southeastern New Mexico about 200 miles southeast of the state capital, Albuquerque, is perhaps best known for the reported crash of an unidentified flying object in 1947 near what was then known as the Roswell Army Air Field.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio and James Dalgleish)

Israel says six wounded near Tel Aviv in long-range Gaza rocket attack

A damaged house that was hit by a rocket can be seen north of Tel Aviv, Israel, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yair Sagi

By Rami Amichay

MISHMERET, Israel (Reuters) – A long-range rocket launched from the Gaza Strip struck a house in central Israel on Monday, wounding six people in the first such incident since a 2014 war in the Palestinian enclave, Israeli authorities said.

The early morning attack on Mishmeret, an agricultural town north of Tel Aviv, came at a time of high tension ahead of the anniversary of Gaza border protests at the weekend, and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Washington as he campaigns for a fifth term in an April 9 ballot.

A damaged house that was hit by a rocket can be seen north of Tel Aviv, Israel, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yair Sagi

A damaged house that was hit by a rocket can be seen north of Tel Aviv, Israel, March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Yair Sagi

Israel’s commercial capital and outlying communities had last come under such an attack during the 2014 war with Gaza’s dominant Hamas Islamists.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said it was treating six occupants of a home in Mishmeret, including an infant, for wounds. TV images showed a building with extensive damage, and police said it had also been set aflame.

The strike came minutes after the Israeli military activated air raid sirens in the area and said one rocket had been launched out of the Gaza Strip, a coastal territory 50 miles (80 km) away where Hamas and other factions possess such weapons.

Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the home in Mishmeret was hit by a rocket from Gaza.

There was no immediate Palestinian confirmation.

Two rockets were launched at Tel Aviv on March 14 but caused no casualties or damage, Israel said. It blamed the rocket launches on Hamas, though a security official who declined to be identified by name or nationality later said that the salvo, which missed any built-up areas, had been set off by accident.

There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu on Monday’s incident.

His chief rival in next month’s election, centrist ex-general Benny Gantz, issued a statement accusing the rightist premier of having “bankrupted national security”.

(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Commuter jet slides off Maine runway as East Coast digs out from snow

A woman makes her way through the snow on cross country skis during a winter storm in Pallisades, New York March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Barbara Goldberg and Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – New England dug out from more than a foot of snow on Monday that snarled commutes, canceled nearly 1,800 airline flights and was blamed for injuries to five people after a commuter jet slid off a snowy runway in northern Maine, forcing the airport to close.

A pilot and four passengers suffered minor injuries when the United Express flight, a 50-seat Embaraer 145, veered off the runway at Presque Isle International Airport, in northern Maine, about 150 miles east of Canada’s Quebec City, on landing at about 11:30 a.m., the airport said on Facebook.

All five were transported to nearby Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital where they were treated and released, the airport said. The plane was damaged and would remain in place until Federal Aviation Administration officials could assess the scene.

“At this time, the airport is closed and officials are currently in discussions with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine when the runway will be reopened,” the airport said.

A band of winter weather stretching from Maryland to Maine dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of New England, including 15 inches (38 cm) overnight on downtown Boston, National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard reported. New York City was spared the worst of the late-winter storm, although Mayor Bill de Blasio took the rare step of shutting the city’s massive public school system and New Jersey Transit canceled about a dozen trains on its sprawling commuter system.

The mayor defended the school closures on Twitter after snow totals in New York were less than expected and parents complained on social media that he had overreacted.

“We put safety first when we make a call on closing school. The overnight storm had more rain and less snow than forecasted. We know it’s tough for working parents – that’s why we made an early decision so New Yorkers could plan,” de Blasio said in a tweet.

More than 1,700 flights were canceled on Monday and another 4,500 were delayed, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.com.

Government offices and libraries in Boston were closed. In New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, state workers had a two-hour delay.

“This is horrible!” said Steve Wesley, 56, as he shoveled snow from his driveway in Maplewood, New Jersey. Wesley’s two-mile local commute by car was delayed nearly two hours by the 4 to 6 inches of snow.

Commuting challenges may mount in the coming days as snow melts and temperatures drop, icing over roadways.

“Each day is a little bit cooler,” the National Weather Service’s Chenard said, noting the week’s highest temperatures for the Northeast will be in the low 30s (1 C).

“You’ll get some melting during the day, especially when the sun is hitting the snow, and then at night, it’s going to be cold enough to refreeze. Any road surfaces that aren’t treated certainly could get icy at night into the morning,” he said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler)

Toyota recalls 1.7 million vehicles worldwide over air bag inflators

Toyota Motor Corp's logo is pictured on a car in Tokyo, Japan, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp said Wednesday it is recalling another 1.7 million vehicles worldwide for potentially faulty Takata airbag inflators as part of a multi-year industry recall campaign announced in 2016.

Automakers are adding about 10 million vehicle inflators in the United States to what was already the largest-ever recall campaign in history. Last week, Ford Motor Co said it was recalling 953,000 vehicles worldwide for Takata inflators. Previously, 37 million U.S. vehicles with 50 million inflators were recalled and 16.7 million inflators remain to be replaced.

At least 23 deaths worldwide have been linked to the rupturing of faulty Takata air bag inflators, including 15 in the United States.

Toyota’s new recall relates to vehicles from the 2010 through 2015 model years, and includes 1.3 million vehicles in the United States.

More than 290 injuries worldwide have been linked to Takata inflators that could explode, spraying metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks. In total, 19 automakers are recalling more than 100 million potentially faulty inflators worldwide.

To date, 21 deaths have been reported in Honda Motor Co vehicles and two in Ford vehicles. Both automakers have urged some drivers of older vehicles not to drive them until the inflators are replaced.

The defect led Takata to file for bankruptcy protection in June 2017. In April, auto components maker Key Safety Systems completed a $1.6 billion deal to acquire Takata. The merged company, known as Joyson Safety Systems, is a subsidiary of Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp.

Automakers in the United States repaired more than 7.2 million defective Takata airbag inflators in 2018 as companies ramped up efforts to track down parts in need of replacement, according to a report released last month.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Bernadette Baum)

Magnitude 4.8 earthquake in Sicily causes damage, injuries

St. Agata church is seen damaged by an earthquake, measuring magnitude 4.8, at the area north of Catania on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

CATANIA, Italy (Reuters) – An earthquake with a magnitude of 4.8 hit an area north of Catania on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily early on Wednesday, damaging buildings and injuring about 30 people, officials said.

Fire fighters are seen next to a house damaged by an earthquake, measuring magnitude 4.8, at the area north of Catania on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

Fire fighters are seen next to a house damaged by an earthquake, measuring magnitude 4.8, at the area north of Catania on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

It occurred two days after Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, erupted, sending a huge column of ash into the sky and causing the temporary closure of Catania airport on Sicily’s eastern coast.

The earthquake hit at 3:19 a.m. (0219 GMT), prompting many people to run out of their homes and sleep in cars. It was felt strongly because its epicenter was a relatively shallow one kilometer deep, officials said.

Television footage showed damage to older buildings in the towns of Santa Venerina and Zafferana Etnea. Several of the area’s centuries-old churches appeared to suffer the most damage. They were empty at the time of the quake.

About 30 people suffered injuries, mostly from falling masonry as they fled from their homes, officials said. About 10 were taken to hospital by ambulances, the others were taken by friends and family members. None of the injuries were serious.

(Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Gareth Jones)

Macron administration warns of ‘great violence’ in Paris from hard core ‘yellow vests’

Trash bins burn as youths and high-school students clash with police during a demonstration against the French government's reform plan in Marseille, France, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

By Richard Lough and Marine Pennetier

PARIS (Reuters) – French authorities warned another wave of “great violence” and rioting could be unleashed in Paris this weekend by a hardcore of ‘yellow vest’ protesters, as senior ministers sought to defuse public anger with conciliatory languages on taxes.

Despite capitulating this week over plans for higher fuel taxes that inspired the nationwide revolt, President Emmanuel Macron has struggled to quell the anger that led to the worst street unrest in central Paris since 1968.

Rioters torched cars, vandalized cafes, looted shops and sprayed anti-Macron graffiti across some of Paris’s most affluent districts, even defacing the Arc de Triomphe. Scores of people were hurt and hundreds arrested in battles with police.

French police stand guard as youth and high school students burn a trash container during a protest against the French government's reform plan, in Bordeaux, France, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

French police stand guard as youth and high school students burn a trash container during a protest against the French government’s reform plan, in Bordeaux, France, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

An official in Macron’s office said intelligence suggested that some protesters would come to the capital this Saturday “to vandalize and to kill.”

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said 65,000 security personnel would be deployed across the country on that day to keep the peace.

In a bid to defuse the three-week crisis, Philippe had told parliament late on Wednesday that he was scrapping the fuel-tax increases planned for 2019, having announced a six-month suspension the day before.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told a conference he was prepared to bring forward tax-cutting plans and that he wanted workers’ bonuses to be tax-free.

But he added: “In this case, it must go hand-in-hand with a decrease in spending.”

He also said France would impose a tax on big internet firms in 2019 if there was no consensus on a European Union-wide levy, seeking to appeal to the “yellow vests'” anti-business sentiment.

SOCCER MATCHES CANCELED

The threat of more violence poses a security nightmare for the authorities, who make a distinction between peaceful ‘yellow vest’ protesters and violent groups, anarchists and looters from the deprived suburbs who they say have infiltrated the movement.

On Facebook groups and across social media, the yellow vests are calling for an “Act IV”, a reference to what would be a fourth weekend of disorder.

“France is fed up!! We will be there in bigger numbers, stronger, standing up for French people. Meet in Paris on Dec. 8,” read one group’s banner.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer urged people to stay at home during the coming weekend. Security sources said the government was considering using troops currently deployed on anti-terrorism patrols to protect public buildings.

Several top-league soccer matches on Saturday have been canceled and the Louvre museum said it and others were awaiting word from Paris officials on whether to close their doors.

The protests, named after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars, erupted in November over the squeeze on household budgets caused by fuel taxes. Demonstrations swiftly grew into a broad, sometimes-violent rebellion against Macron, with no formal leader.

Their demands are diverse and include lower taxes, higher salaries and Macron’s resignation.

France’s hard-left CGT trade union on Thursday called on its energy industry workers to walk out for a 48 hours from Dec. 13, saying it wanted to join forces with the yellow vests. The movement, with no formal leader, has so far not associated itself with any political party or trade union.

A French riot policeman stands next to a burning car as youth and high school students protest against the French government's reform plan, in Nantes, France, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A French riot policeman stands next to a burning car as youth and high school students protest against the French government’s reform plan, in Nantes, France, December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

STREET POLITICS

The fuel-tax volte-face was the first major U-turn of Macron’s 18-month presidency.

The unrest has exposed the deep-seated resentment among non-city dwellers that Macron is out-of-touch with the hard-pressed middle class and blue-collar laborers. They see the 40-year-old former investment banker as closer to big business.

Trouble is also brewing elsewhere for Macron. Teenage students on Thursday blocked access to more than 200 high schools across the country, burning garbage bins and setting alight a car in the western city of Nantes.

Meanwhile, farmers who have long complained that retailers are squeezing their margins and are furious over a delay to the planned rise in minimum food prices, and truckers are threatening to strike from Sunday.

Le Maire said France was no longer spared from the wave of populism that has swept across Europe.

“It’s only that in France, it’s not manifesting itself at the ballot box, but in the streets.”

(Reporting by Richard Lough and Marine Pennetier; additional reporting by Leigh Thomas, Michel Rose and Myriam Rivet; Editing by Toby Chopra)