One killed and 47 injured in France fuel tax protests

Jeannie Matthews
November 18, 2018

A woman protester in her 50s was killed Saturday after being struck by a auto in the southeastern French region of Savoie during protests over a new petrol tax, with five others sustaining serious injuries throughout the day after being hit by cars, and over 220 suffering less serious injuries, according to police.

They targeted tollbooths, roundabouts and the bypass that rings Paris on Saturday.

According to various French media reports, people knocked on the woman's vehicle as she tried to take her daughter to a hospital.

"I really want people not to let themselves become submerged by anger", Alexandrine Mazet told RTL radio. The young woman appeared later on BFMTV still wearing her yellow vest.

The nationwide protest was unusual due to its grassroots origins. It was unclear whether the upstart movement, without a leader, would survive, and what problems it might pose for Macron.

In addition to fuel prices, protesters said that other social issues, including the estate tax, low wages, and a perceived turn in an undemocratic direction by the current government, is what brought them into the streets.

The ministry said security forces used tear gas in several places to unblock major routes, notably at the access road to the Mont Blanc tunnel, where about 30 canisters were fired.

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"We're on maximum alert", he said, reiterating that police would ensure that no roads were completely blocked in order to ensure people's safety. "It is heard. The government is attentive to all demonstrations and, of course, we must continue to answer the expectations of the French including those about their purchasing power". Those French who have a hard time making ends meet often rely on cheaper diesel fuel.

The taxes are part of President Emmanuel Macron's strategy of weaning France off fossil fuels. A "carbon trajectory" calls for continued increases. French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said the tax on diesel will increase by 6.5 cents per liter in January 2019, while the tax on gasoline is set to increase by 2.9 cents.

Many drivers see them as emblematic of a presidency seen as disconnected from day-to-day economic difficulties.

Anger over the high fuel prices has resulted in Macron's popularity taking a hit over the recent months - from 39 percent in July to 21 percent in October.

Robert Tichit, 67, a retiree, referred to the president as "King Macron".

The backlash is the latest confrontation between Mr Macron and voters, mostly based in the countryside and provincial towns and cities, who view the former investment banker as the representative of a remote urban elite.

In Paris, several hundred protesters yelling "Macron resign!" and singing La Marseillaise massed on the Champs Elysees and the Place de la Concorde, hoping to march toward the Elysee Palace, Macron's official residence.

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