Macron silent as ‘yellow vests’ mobilise for another Paris protest

Woman (80) becomes fourth person to die in violence that threatens rest of president’s term

A student is arrested by police during a demonstration, on Monday, in Bordeaux, southwestern France.  Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

A student is arrested by police during a demonstration, on Monday, in Bordeaux, southwestern France. Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images

 

The atmosphere in France remained anxious and tense on Monday, as militants from the “yellow vests” movement called for further demonstrations in Paris next Saturday.

An 80-year-old woman who was hit in the face by a projectile as she closed the shutters of her apartment in Marseille during rioting on Saturday became the fourth person to die in the violence.

The first 57 of 630 people detained by police on December 1st were brought before judges.  

President Emmanuel Macron remained silent, despite intense pressure from his own camp and the opposition to address the three-week-old social movement that has degenerated into street violence, vandalism and looting. If Macron cannot retake control the last 3½ years of his term are threatened.

Macron lunched with CRS riot police who had clashed with rioters in the capital, and left it to the prime minister, Edouard Philippe, to receive the leaders of political parties. The government has been criticised for deploying only 5,000 police in Paris on Saturday, the day of the worst violence, and for not calling in the army to maintain order.

Moratorium

The politicians asked Philippe for a moratorium on the carbon tax that sparked the demonstrations. Some demanded a rise in the minimum wage and pensions, the re-establishment of a tax on capital gains and more funding for public services.

“I told him that the strategy of confrontation chosen by Emmanuel Macron could have tragic consequences,” the far-right leader Marine Le Pen told journalists as she left the prime minister’s office. If Macron did not change tack, she warned, “He could become the first president in half a century to fire on demonstrators.”

The scene outside the Lycee Professionnel Jean-Pierre Timbaud school after being set ablaze by students protesting against French government education reforms, on Monday, in Paris. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images
The scene outside the Lycee Professionnel Jean-Pierre Timbaud school after being set ablaze by students protesting against French government education reforms, on Monday, in Paris. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

A Facebook page titled “Paris Insurrection Act 4!” called on demonstrators to reconvene on the Champs-Élysée on December 8th. At least 13 different calls for an “Act 4” have been published on social media, and thousands of people have said they will participate.

Several French prefects, responsible for security at the department level, spoke of “an explosive, semi- insurrectional, pre-revolutionary situation” in interviews with Le Monde.

Petrol storage depot

Hundreds of yellow vests continue to block the petrol storage depot at Le Mans. Petrol stations in Brittany have run out of petrol because the depots at Lorient and Brest remain blocked by construction workers in league with yellow vests.

The May ’68 revolt, when France last descended into anarchy, is a widespread reference. “I want another May ’68,” said a roofer who came to repair a leak in this correspondent’s apartment. “But this time, I want us to go all the way. Last time, we were had.”

Lycée students who oppose educational reforms have joined the protests. They clashed with police in the streets of Dijon, Clermont- Ferrand and Aubervilliers on Monday. Classes were disrupted in 100 schools across France.

Social media

The prime minister invited representatives of the yellow vests to meet with him on Tuesday, for the second time. Last week, only two representatives showed up, and one left immediately when Philippe refused to allow him to broadcast the meeting live on social media.

Leaders of the amorphous group are divided between those who want to talk to the government and those who refuse. We will not go because the ministers have already said they will not change course,” Cédric Guémy, the spokesman for the “free yellow vests” of the Paris region told France Inter radio.

But another spokesman, David Tann, said he will go to the prime minister’s office “because I am brave, although it is dangerous for us”. Several representatives of the yellow vests said they received death threats via social media or on their mobile telephones.