Thursday 19 September 2019

Macron condemns violent protesters as fuel tax demonstrations continue

Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in Paris as thousands gathered in the capital and beyond and staged road blockades.

Demonstrators hold a banner criticising Emmanuel Macron and the French government (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Demonstrators hold a banner criticising Emmanuel Macron and the French government (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

By Thomas Adamson, Associated Press

French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned violence by protesters at demonstrations against rising fuel taxes and his government.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in Paris as thousands gathered in the capital and beyond and staged road blockades.

Thousands of police were deployed nationwide to contain the eighth day of deadly demonstrations that started as protests against tax but morphed into a rebuke of Mr Macron and the perceived elitism of France’s ruling class. Two people have been killed since November 17 in protest-related tragedies.

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Demonstrators, dubbed ‘yellow jackets’ face riot police during clashes on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, as they protest against fuel tax hikes (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

Tense clashes on the Champs-Elysees that ended by dusk on Saturday saw police face off with demonstrators who burned plywood, wielded placards reading “Death to Taxes” and upturned a large vehicle.

At least 19 people, including four police officers, were slightly hurt and one person had more serious injuries in the day of unrest in Paris, according to police.

Mr Macron responded in a strongly worded tweet: “Shame on those who attacked (police). Shame on those who were violent against other citizens … No place for this violence in the Republic.”

Police said that dozens of protesters were detained for “throwing projectiles,” among other acts. By nightfall the Champs-Elysees was smouldering and in the Place de la Madeleine, burned scooters lay on the streets.

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Protesters flee as police fire tear gas during clashes on the Champs-Elysees in Paris( Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

The famed avenue was speckled with plumes of smoke and neon due to the colour of the vests the self-styled “yellow jacket” protesters wear. French drivers are required to keep neon security vests in their vehicles.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner said that 8,000 protesters flooded the Champs-Elysees at the demonstration’s peak and there were nearly 106,000 protesters and 130 arrests in total nationwide.

Mr Castaner denounced protesters from the far-right whom he called “rebellious,” as he accused National Assembly leader Marine Le Pen of encouraging them.

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Fuel tax protesters also took to the streets in Lyon (Laurent Cipriani/AP)

But the Interior Ministry played down the scale of the demonstrations by highlighting that up to 280,000 people took part in last Saturday’s protest.

The unrest is proving a major challenge for the embattled Mr Macron, who is suffering in the polls.

The leader, who swept to power only last year, is the focus of rage for the “yellow jacket” demonstrators who accuse the pro-business centrist of elitism and indifference to the struggles of ordinary French people.

Mr Macron has so far held strong and insisted the fuel tax rises are a necessary pain to reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy investments – a cornerstone of his reforms of the nation. He will defend fresh plans to make the “energy transition” easier next week.

PA Media

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