French Protests Against Gas Tax Lead to One Dead, 50 Wounded

Nov 19, 2018, 02:00
French Protests Against Gas Tax Lead to One Dead, 50 Wounded

Protesters pledge to target tollbooths, roundabouts and the bypass that rings Paris on Saturday.

"There are just too many taxes in France", said Veronique Lestrade, a demonstrator on the outskirts of Paris, who said her family was struggling to make ends meet.

With nearly 80 per cent of the public backing the "yellow vest" protests, the president held a crisis meeting to find ways of softening the impact on the poor and came up with a raft of sweeteners worth around €500 million.

Far-left party Unbowed France's leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said the number of protesters was much higher than the interior ministry's assessment and accused the government of "dramatizing" the movement.

AFP  Xavier Leoty
AFP Xavier Leoty

The protests began at the end of previous year after higher fuel taxes were introduced.

At a blockade on a road in the southeastern department of Savoie, a driver panicked when protesters surrounded her vehicle and she accelerated, hitting and killing a woman demonstrator, the French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in televised comments.

The situation throughout the night was "agitated", Castaner said, with "aggressions, fights, knife-slashing" taking place, including among the protesters.

Some 288,000 people took part in Saturday's protests, the ministry said, with scores under way on Sunday.

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People wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' nationwide protest against higher fuel prices, block the Paris-Brussels motorway in Haulchin, France, November 17, 2018.

In a similar scenario, police cleared out the huge traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe, paralyzed for hours by protesters. It said 52 people were detained and 38 held for questioning. According to various French media reports, protesters reportedly knocked on her auto as she tried to take her daughter to a hospital.

Ecology minister Francois de Rugy confirmed the government's commitment to the policy Sunday, telling Le Parisien that France needed to get itself out of the "trap" of fossil fuel reliance. A "carbon trajectory" calls for continued increases, particularly on diesel. Taxes on diesel fuel have risen 7 euro cents (nearly 8 USA cents) and are to keep climbing in the coming years, Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne has said. The tax on gasoline is to increase 4 euro cents.

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

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Macron's popularity has plunged, hovering around 30 per cent.

"We've had enough of it".

In Paris, a group of some 50 protesters were yelling "Macron resign!" on the Champs Elysee, though police were stopping them from heading toward the nearby Elysee Palace, the president's residence.

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