French government to drop fuel tax rise that sparked "Yellow Vest" protests

Jeannie Matthews
December 6, 2018

The so-called "yellow vest" protesters have still vowed to stage demonstrations alongside trade unions and farmers.Jacline Mouraud, the self-proclaimed spokesperson for the "yellow vests", told The Associated Press that Macron's move "is on the right path but in my opinion it will not fundamentally change the movement".

The price increases for the utilities will be suspended for six months, said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, but leaders of the demonstrations in which hundreds of thousands have donned yellow safety vests were dismissive of the gesture.

Macron has been a supporter of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Experts say the government may have reacted too late to the street protests, a regular feature of French political life which have repeatedly forced Macron's predecessors into U-turns.

The protesters smashed windows, blocked roads, overturned and torched cars, and defaced public monuments in an effort to get the higher gas taxes reversed.

Many are also anxious after Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Wednesday that measures aimed at improving their negotiating power with distributors would be delayed as the government grapples with the "yellow vest" movement.

"If your only response, Mr Prime Minister, is the suspension of Macron's fuel taxes, then you still haven't realised the gravity of the situation", Abad said. People want "the baguette", not crumbs, and will take to the streets again on Saturday, he said. In the southern city of Marseille, students clashed with police outside a high school.

"When you leave things to fester too long, it costs more", Jean-Francois Amadieu, a sociologist at Paris 1 University, told AFP.

More protests were expected this weekend in Paris.

It may not sound like much, but the proposal filled the streets with protesters in yellow jackets for three weeks.

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Some 72 percent of French people support the "yellow vests" movement - a figure which has remained stable despite last weekend's violence and the government's climbdown.

The Arc de Triomphe, which is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and was visited by world leaders last month to mark the centenary of the end of World War I, was sprayed with graffiti and vandalized.

Philippe pointed out that the tax issue shouldn't put "the nation's unity in danger", also announcing that the national debate on how to tackle climate change without burdening the wallets of French citizens will begin in mid-December.

She said each of the disparate protesting groups will decide what to do next, but many will probably keep demonstrating.

French President Emmanuel Macron assesses the damages of the "Yellow Vests" protest earlier on the week.

The Elysée also confirmed the announcement to network France 24.

One of the activists leading France's protest movement says that he fears more deaths if Saturday's demonstration goes ahead, and called for President Emmanuel Macron to speak out and bring calm. "The interior minister will use all means to ensure order is respected".

The French government caved in after the worst riots in decades and delayed an increase in energy taxes.

Griveaux said the wealth tax reform had not been "a gift to the rich" and was aimed at encouraging wealthy individuals to invest more in France.

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