Macron condemns violence as protests continue
Police fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in Paris
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 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 17th in protest-related tragedies.
Tense clashes on the Champs-Élysées 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] among other acts. By nightfall the Champs-Élysées was smouldering and in the Place de la Madeleine, burned scooters lay on the streets.
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. Drivers in France are required to keep neon security vests in their vehicles.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner said that 8,000 protesters flooded the Champs-Élysées 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 Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally party, of encouraging them.
But the interior ministry played down the scale of the demonstrations bypointung out that far more people – up to 280,000 – had taken part in protests on the previous Saturday.
The unrest is proving a major challenge for the embattled Mr Macron, who is suffering in the polls. The French president, in power since last year, is the focus of rage for the “yellow jacket” demonstrators who accuse him 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. – AP