Paris’ most famous road, the Champs-Élysées, has been described as looking like a war zone as France’s fourth weekend of anti-government protests turned violent.
Thousands of protesters have hit the streets over the last few weekends to protest recent tax increases on fuel as part of a proposed carbon tax which would help the French government hit its environmental targets.
It’s been called the ‘Yellow vests movement’, as all motorists in France are required by law to carry a yellow high visibility vest, and is fuelled by the belief that these new taxes penalise the working and middle classes.
Over 300,000 people took part in a demonstration on November 17 with protesters constructing barricades and blocking roads. Unfortunately, over the next five days, a number of protesters were injured.
This galvanised protesters and the next weekend things turned violent in Paris where around 8,000 protesters lit fires in the streets, vandalised signs and attacked police.
Eventually, police were forced to use tear gas to force the crowds to disperse. It was estimated that by the end of the second weekend of protests in Paris protesters had caused up to €1.5m in damages.
The protests continued over the next weekend, which saw hundreds arrested as protesters once again turned violent, attacked police and even vandalised the Arc De Triomphe.
Unfortunately, the protests show no sign of slowing down as the BBC have reported that 5,000 people have gathered in Paris and started building barricades.
In response, the local police have deployed 8,000 officers and 12 armoured vehicles to protect the public and private property.
Allegedly authorities have already arrested 500 people, who were found carrying projectiles, as they made their way into the city.
French ministers have claimed that the protests have been co-opted by far-right ultra violent protesters.
Despite the upturn in violence the ‘Yellow vest movement’ has widespread support across France. A Guardian poll which found that 72 per cent of French people supported the protesters although a majority disapproved of the violence.
The French President Emmanuel Macron has suspended the planned fuel tax but refused to back down on the issue saying that they will go ahead eventually.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has meanwhile said that the French government plans on starting a three-month national debate on how to fight climate change without hurting the French public.
In a televised address Mr Philippe said:
No tax merits putting our nation’s unity in danger. We have made propositions, maybe they aren’t perfect. Let’s talk, let’s improve them. I’m ready.
Unfortunately for prime Minster Philippe and President Macron the debate may well have moved beyond a simple fuel tax.
The Yellow vests are now allegedly demanding an additional increase to the minimum wage, improved standards of living and an end to unpopular austerity measures.
Perhaps most concerning for President Macron, people are calling for his resignation over the protests which have seen some of the worst violence on French streets in decades.
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