Yellow Vest protesters warned to keep clear of Notre Dame

Last Modified Saturday, 20 April 2019 (15:21 IST)
Tens of thousands of police have been deployed across as the country braces for the 23rd round of protests. Demonstrators have expressed ire that French billionaires could help the cathedral but not the poor.
A total of 60,000 police were deployed across France on Saturday as the country prepared for the latest protest by the "gilets jaunes" or Yellow Vest demonstrators.
 
At least 5,000 police were being stationed in alone, as authorities warned protesters to keep away from cathedral and the banks of the Seine.
 
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said at a press conference on Friday that he believed extremists and vandals were planning to continue their campaign of rioting, setting fires, and looting — along the lines of scenes on the Champs Elysee in March.
 
The protest over income and tax inequality had been scheduled before this week's devastating fire at Notre Dame, which caused the landmark's spire to collapse and most of its roof to fall in. It took firefighters four days to stabilize the building, and they only finally left on Friday night.
 
President Emmanuel Macron had been due to announce a plan to address some of the demonstrators' concerns on the evening that the fire broke out.
 
Response to billionaires' donations
 
For many Yellow Vest participants, the aftermath of the blaze proved their point about the balance of wealth in France. Organizers have expressed their consternation that although Notre Dame's caretakers have been saying for years that they did not have enough funds for repairs, several billionaires announced they would give massive donations only after the fire.
 
"They can mobilize a truckload of cash in one night for Notre Dame," but they can't help the poor, said spokeswoman Ingrid Levavasseur.
 
Opposition politicians and protest leaders have also expressed their doubts about Macron's ambitious plan to completely rebuild the church in five years, and have scoffed at what they see as his attempts to use the tragedy to create national unity.
 
Notre Dame's 200,000 bees survive blaze
 
There was, however, some good news out of Notre Dame late on Friday, when the cathedral's beekeeper announced the "miracle" that the 200,000 bees living on top of the building had survived.
 
The project to keep bees on Notre Dame was introduced in 2013 after the number of bees in Paris began to plummet. Urban agricultural company Beeopic maintains hives at the cathedral, and it posted pictures of the surviving bees on Instagram. It also confirmed that "nos abeilles" ("our bees") were still on site.
 
"Thank goodness the flames didn't touch them," Nicolas Geant said in an interview with CNN. "It's a miracle!"
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