Monday 23 September 2019

French police braced for more protests over fuel taxes

Tensions have been mounting around the grassroots movement that drew more than a quarter of a million people to demonstrations a week ago.

Protesters dubbed the ‘yellow Jackets’ face riot police as they block a crossroads in southern France in protest against rising fuel and oil prices (Claude Paris/AP)
Protesters dubbed the ‘yellow Jackets’ face riot police as they block a crossroads in southern France in protest against rising fuel and oil prices (Claude Paris/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

France is deploying thousands of police to try to contain nationwide protests and road blockades by drivers angry over rising fuel taxes and Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.

Tensions have been mounting around the grassroots movement that drew more than a quarter of a million people a week ago to demonstrations across France, from Provence to Normandy and in between.

A new wave of protests was planned on Saturday, including beneath the Eiffel Tower.

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A ‘yellow jacket’ protester holding a French flag walks past the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees in Paris (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner called for calm and promised tough police measures against unruly crowds.

Paris alone is deploying some 3,000 security forces, notably around tourist-frequented areas like the Champs-Elysees, after an unauthorised attempt last week to march on the presidential palace.

Two people have been killed and hundreds of others injured in the week of protests, which are posing a big challenge to Mr Macron.

Authorities are struggling because the movement has no clear leader and has attracted a motley group of people with broadly varying demands.

The protesters call themselves the “yellow jackets” after the hi-vis security vests that drivers are required to keep in their vehicles.

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French police officers in riot gear (Fabrice Wislez/AP)

A man caused a dramatic stand-off with police on Friday when he donned a neon vest and brandished an apparent grenade at a supermarket in the western city of Angers. He was later arrested.

Most of the protesters’ anger is targeted at Mr Macron, a pro-business centrist accused of indifference to the struggles of ordinary people.

The president has defended the fuel taxes as necessary to reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels, but promised to lay out new plans on Tuesday to make the “energy transition” easier.

PA Media

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