French police in Montauban say they have discovered three improvised explosive devices along with 28 Molotov cocktails in possession of Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protestors as the French government spokesman warns of people wanting to “overthrow power”.
Investigators say they discovered the explosives and the 28 Molotov cocktails hidden in the back of a van on the Aussonne roundabout near Montauban and said the same vehicle had been present multiple times during previous Yellow Vest protests France Bleu reports.
The owner of the vehicle, a 22-year-old man born in Orgueil, was arrested Friday afternoon in connection with the discovery. Police say the homemade bombs consisted of firecrackers tied to deodorant spray cans, posting a picture of the devices on Twitter.
A 26-year-old from Montauban, who was behind the explosive devices, later handed himself in, with police saying they were previously aware of him.
The prefect of Tarn-et-Garonne and the local prosecutor issued a statement following the discovery strongly condemning any violence ahead of Saturday’s protests.
The Haute-Garonne prefecture has also banned the transportation of flammable, chemical, and explosive products including fireworks and firecrackers until Tuesday, December 11th, with special exemptions for professional reasons. The carrying of hunting weapons and ammunition has also been banned along with the sale and transportation of jerry cans and other fuel containers over the same period.
The bans come as many fear a severe escalation of violence on Saturday compared to previous Yellow Vest protests. French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux has advised people not to travel to Paris and confessed he was “praying” for the republic.
When asked about the possibility of Yellow Vest protestors surrounding the Elysee Palace, the seat of French President Emmanuel Macron, Griveaux said: “Obviously it’s organized. Politicized and radicalized elements are trying to exploit the movement. They want to overthrow the power.”
While much of the previous violence took place last Saturday, there have been several violent incidents over the past week, including tax offices being firebombed in several cities.
On Friday, French police were accused of being too harsh in their handling of another violent protest that occurred at a high school in Mantes la Jolie on the outskirts of Paris. Video footage emerged of police forcing pupils onto their knees with some handcuffed with zip ties.
The arrests came after the students had thrown gas canisters on fires created by Yellow Vest protesters.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner defended the police arguing that the images required “context”.
“There was a lot of violence. Dozens of gas cylinders had been thrown, with their taps open, on to burning barricades,” he said.
Tensions remain high across France with many bracing for what has been dubbed “Act IV” by protestors.