A French protest against rising taxes and the high cost of living turned into a riot Saturday in Paris as police fired tear gas and water cannon in street battles with activists wearing the fluorescent yellow vests of a new 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.
Nationwide protests against French President Emmanuel Macron took on an even bigger dimension Wednesday after trade unions and farmers vowed to join the fray, unimpressed by government concessions that tried to stem the momentum of the most violent demonstrations France has seen in a decade.
The spark that lit the revolt was Macron's perceived bias towards the rich, exemplified first and foremost by his decision to scrap wealth taxes on investors at the same time as he raised taxes on pensioners, the protesters say.
But demonstrations continued around the country.
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The most violent protests took place last weekend while Macron attended the G-20 (Group of 20) meetings in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Rescinding the fuel tax hike was the main demand of the demonstrators, alongside a higher minimum wage and the return of a wealth tax on high-earners which was abolished past year.
On Facebook groups and across social media, the yellow vests are calling for an "Act IV", a reference to what would be a fourth weekend of disorder. They put up a sign by the side of the road reading "Macron dictator". The tax would increase the price of diesel by 30¢ per gallon and regular gasoline by 17¢ per gallon, after a year in which prices have already risen by 16%. "We can not let these rebels continue to threaten the nation", Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Thursday. Student protests blocked or otherwise disrupted about 100 high schools around the country blocked or otherwise disrupted by student protests Tuesday, according to the French Education Ministry. More protests are expected to come on Saturday, reports Fox News. Some 136,000 people protested in Paris over the weekend.
Jacline Mouraud, one of the self-proclaimed spokespeople for the disparate yellow vest movement, told the AP that Macron's concession "comes much too late, unfortunately". Police have also urged shops near the Champs Elysée to close as a precaution.
Dozens of cars were burned, more than 400 people arrested and the Arc de Triomphe was daubed in graffiti.
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Griveaux stressed that the tax hikes could be scrapped permanently if no agreement was reached during consultations over the next six months.
Philippe held crisis talks with representatives of major political parties on Monday, and met with Macron, who cancelled a two-day trip to Serbia amid the most serious challenge to his presidency since his election in May 2017. "The interior minister will use all means to ensure order is respected".
Tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon were used and cars were torched, while rocks were hurled at police as protesters rampaged in the streets around the capital's tourist landmarks.
The French government proposed to tax carbon, which would have added about 15 cents a gallon to the price of gasoline, or a little less than 3 percent, starting January 1. The tax increase has been described as an effort to move France further to renewable energy sources.
But many feel that has not emerged.
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Mr Macron was elected on a platform of economic reform which would improve the lives of French people via lower unemployment and a kick-started economy.