Police clash with ‘yellow vest’ protesters in Paris

Reuters, PARIS

Sun, Nov 25, 2018 - Page 5

Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse protesters in Paris who were angry over rising fuel costs and French President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies, the second weekend of “yellow vest” protests that have caused disruption across the country.

Several hundred protesters had converged on the Champs Elysees, where they faced police sent to prevent them from reaching the nearby presidential Elysee Palace.

Some protesters sang the French national anthem, while others carried signs with slogans saying: “Macron, resignation” and “Macron, thief.”

For more than a week, protesters clad in the fluorescent yellow jackets that all motorists in France must have in their cars have blocked highways across the country with burning barricades and convoys of slow-moving trucks, obstructing access to fuel depots, shopping centers and some factories.

They are opposed to taxes Macron introduced last year on diesel and gasoline, which are designed to encourage people to shift to more environmentally friendly transport.

Alongside the tax, the government has offered incentives to buy green or electric vehicles.

Security forces are concerned that far-left and far-right extremists might infiltrate the demonstrations, escalating the crowd-control challenges.

About 30,000 people were expected to protest in Paris alone, Denis Jacob, secretary-general of police union Alternative Police, told reporters.

“We know there are ultra-right and ultra-left infiltrators. You can also expect gangs from the suburbs and ‘black-blocks,’” he said, referring to a militant protest force.

About 3,000 police officers have been drafted in to work in Paris yesterday, Paris City Hall said, with security forces having to handle a demonstration against sexual violence, a soccer match and a rugby game in the capital on the same day.

On Saturday last week, when nearly 300,000 people took part in the first yellow vest demonstrations countrywide, retailers’ daily revenue fell 35 percent, according to consumer groups.

The unrest is a dilemma for Macron, who casts himself as a champion against climate change, but has been derided as out of touch with common folk and is fighting a slump in popularity.

Despite calls for calm from the government, the yellow vest protests have spread to French territories abroad, including the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where cars were set on fire.

The unrest has left two dead and 606 injured in France, the Ministry of the Interior said on Thursday.