Protest Hit France ‘To Halt Fuel Tax Rise’

French Protest Escalates The French government will suspend a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests, local media reports. The protests have hit major French...

French Protest Escalates

The French government will suspend a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests, local media reports. The protests have hit major French cities causing considerable damage for the past three weekends.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe sought compromise with the protesters, but they called off talks citing death threats from extremists in their ranks. The “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) protests have now grown to reflect more widespread anger at the government.

Three people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism – notably when statues were smashed at the Arc de Triomphe last Saturday – have been widely condemned. “Yellow vests” are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.

The movement has grown via social media and has supporters across the political spectrum. President Emmanuel Macron was elected two years ago with an overwhelming mandate for sweeping reform, but his popularity has fallen sharply in recent months.

Mr Macron has accused his political opponents of hijacking the movement in order to block the reforms. The difficulty for Emmanuel Macron is that this is exactly the kind of capitulation to the street that he has vowed to stop. There will be no change of direction, he repeats to all who will hear, because that would only store up worse problems for the future.

Protests continued into Monday. About 50 “yellow vests” blocked access to a major fuel depot in the port of Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille, and petrol stations across the country have run out of fuel. Students in about 100 secondary schools across the country held demonstrations against educational and exam reforms.

Changes affecting ambulance drivers are also part of a raft of reforms by President Macron. Private ambulance drivers staged further demonstrations on Monday against a range of social security and healthcare reforms they say could affect their services.

One protester told the Reuters news agency: “[The reforms] will bludgeon us financially and destroy our companies. We’re going to have to fire people, that’s for sure.” It is unclear whether the groups of students and health workers have directly aligned themselves with the “yellow vests”.

One member of the movement, a man in his 20’s, is in a critical condition in hospital in Toulouse. He was injured in a clash with police.

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