Riots In Paris: French Unions Call On Macron To Halt Carbon Tax Hike

  • Date: 01/12/18
  • The Japan Times

Violent clashes seen again in Paris as demonstrators vent anger about fuel taxes, cost of living. Trade union leaders have called for a moratorium on a new fuel tax hike set for January.

Groups of masked protesters battled police through clouds of tear gas near Paris’ Champs Elysees on Saturday as thousands took part in a third weekend of “yellow vest” demonstrations, which have morphed from anger over fuel taxes into a broader anti-government movement.

The violence broke out early after crowds began gathering at the Arc de Triomphe, where they found the Champs Elysees under lockdown by police manning barricades and water cannons.

While several dozen protesters were allowed to pass after an ID check and search, many others, often wearing gas masks or ski goggles, remained behind and fought with police, who responded with rounds of tear gas.

Demonstrators, some wielding slingshots, threw rocks, construction barricades and even paint at police in protective gear and helmets, with some officers seen spattered with yellow liquid.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, visiting the Paris police’s command center, said at least 107 people were arrested in Paris among the estimated 5,500 protesters. Some 8,000 were counted in the city last Saturday. […]

Attempts by the government to negotiate with the grass-roots movement have failed, in large part because representatives have insisted on public talks broadcast on TV.

“We want our dignity back and we want to be able to live from our work, which is absolutely not the case today,” Jason Herbert said after walking out of talks with the prime minister on Friday.

Macron has sought to douse the anger by promising three months of nationwide talks on how best to transform France into a low-carbon economy without penalizing the poor.

He also vowed to slow the rate of increase in fuel taxes if international oil prices rise too rapidly but only after a tax hike due in January.

But many protesters were unconvinced by Macron’s speech last Tuesday.

“What we need is something tangible, not just smoke and mirrors,” said Yoann Allard, a 30-year-old farmhand.

Trade union leaders, who met Friday with Philippe, have called for a moratorium on a new fuel tax hike set for January, a suggestion which some pro-Macron members of the National Assembly have started to endorse.

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