Protests sweeping France have arrived in Paris, as demonstrators clashed with the police over a new fuel tax and called for President Emmanuel Macron to resign. In response, Macron slammed the violence on Twitter.
Police have fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters in Paris, as the “yellow vest” demonstrators continued a week of opposition to rising fuel costs and the economic policies of President Emmanuel Macron.
After staging roadblocks on highways across France for days, hundreds of demonstrators converged on the Champs-Elysees carrying signs that read “Macron, thief!” and “Macron, resign!”
According to police, around 8,000 protested in Paris, with nearly 100,000 more rallying in other parts of the country. Paris protesters reportedly set fire to a truck at the Champs-Elysees, damaged stores, streetlights and traffic signs. Masked protesters also erected barricades in the city and threw bricks and other items at the police.
Officials said 24 people have been injured, including five police officers. One of them suffered burns to his groin.
Still, the authorities noted fewer violent incidents than during the first “yellow vest” protests a week ago.
“We’re not here to beat up cops. We came because we want the government to hear us, to hear the people,” one protest spokeswoman, Laetitia Dewalle, told the Agence France-Presse news agency, adding that the largely spontaneous movement denounced “violence by pseudo-protesters” on the fringes.
Elsewhere, protesters took over toll booths to let vehicles pass for free.
Macron ‘president of the rich’
Wearing the fluorescent yellow vests donned by stranded motorists in France, the protesters are upset about new taxes on diesel and ordinary gasoline, designed to encourage people to favor more environmentally friendly transport. Along with these taxes, the government has offered financial incentives to buy more fuel-efficient or electric vehicles.
Since coming into office in May 2017, Macron has repeatedly faced criticism about being out of touch with France’s common people. He has been dubbed the “president of the rich” for cutting a wealth tax, and his approval rating currently stands at a dismal 20 percent.
“Shame on those who were violent toward other citizens and journalists. Shame on those who tried to intimidate officials,” he posted on Twitter.
“There is no place for violence in this republic,” he added.
Police fear protests infiltrated by extremists
Police have warned that they believe the far-left and far-right movements are infiltrating the protests in order to stir up violent unrest. The demonstrations have included burning barricades and convoys of slow-moving trucks. A massive campaign last Saturday saw 300,000 join the protests nationwide.
The Interior Ministry has confirmed that at least two people have been killed and 606 injured since protests started, with the protests now spreading to French overseas territories.
On Saturday, hundreds of police formed a barrier in front of the protesters to prevent them from reaching their goal, the Elysee Palace, Macron’s residence.
es,dj/cmk (AFP, Reuters)