Egypt bans yellow vests in fear of copycat protests

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Egyptian authorities have introduced restrictions on the sale of hi-vis vests in fear the clothing could inspire imitations of French protesters.

Officials, speaking anonymously, said stores selling safety equipment have been barred from selling the reflective clothing to walk-in buyers, and are only permitted to sell to verified companies with police permission.

In Cairo, Associated Press reported that six retailers selling safety gear said they had stopped selling the vests.

Four of the stores said they had been instructed to stop selling the items by police, while two declined to comment on the reasons for the absence of the clothing.

“The police came here a few days back and told us to stop selling them. When we asked why, they said they were acting on instructions,” one seller said.

“They seem not to want anyone to do what they are doing in France,” another speculated.

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Watch: Protesters and police clash in Paris

The gilet jaunes protests, called after the his-vis jackets worn by demonstrators, have swept across France over the last month, turning Paris streets into scenes of chaos, with people constructing barricades, hurling rocks and setting vehicles on fire.

Police have used tear gas, stun grenades and water canons in a violent response to the urban riots.

The protests were sparked by anger over a rise in fuel tax and broader unhappiness over what is perceived as an economic and political system that benefits the elite.

Many on the streets are calling for the president, Emmanuel Macron, to resign.

In Egypt, fears of imitation protests are tied to the anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising, in which Hosni Mubarak, the former dictator of the country, was toppled.

Egyptian authorities have cracked down on dissent in the years since, virtually banning protests and ramping up security measures in the streets around the 25 January anniversary.

And in much of the coverage of the French protests, Egyptian media has echoed the line of current president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, that street protests equal chaos and a tough hand is necessary to ensure security.

Cairo-based human rights lawyer Negad Borai said the government could delay price hikes, expected next year, “to avoid protests inspired by what’s happening in France.”

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