Yellow vest protests in France continued into their second weekend, illustrating anger towards French President Emmanuel Macron and divisions between urban and rural France.
By Carolina McCabe
On Saturday, over 106,000 protesters who are part of “gilets jaunes” or “yellow vests” took to the streets in France.
Outcry grew after President Emmanuel Macron introduced a new hydrocarbon tax to promote alternative energy. The tax raised prices 23 percent in a year, to an average of €1.51 per liter of diesel. The last time fuel prices in France reached that level was in the early 2000s, AFP said. However, anger also stems from distrust and disappointment in Macron and the French government.
Since the protests began, 2 people have died in traffic related incidents and over 500 people have been injured. Protests became violent and destructive, damaging shops on the Champs-Elysees with smashed windows and graffiti.
Clean up operations are now underway, with over 200 workers repairing what officials estimate could be up to €1.5 million in damage.
Police responded to protesters on Saturday with water cannons and tear gas. Paris Police Chief Michel Delpuech stated that police forces used 5,000 teargas canisters, and fire services put out about 100 fires. Police arrested 103 people.
Officials worry about the perception the protests will have around the world. During a news briefing, Government Spokesman Benjamin Griveaux stated, “We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of these images of the Champs-Élysées … with battle scenes that were broadcast by the media in France and abroad.”
Ministers and public officials have been steadfast in their decisions and said the environment-friendly tax increases will remain in place. Macron is expected to release measures that will make the transition more conscious of its impact on members of the lower and middle-class.
The yellow vest protests also symbolize division between urban elites and the rural citizens of France. The movement, which developed over social media, illustrates dissatisfaction with Macron, mirroring his approval rating, which has fallen to 26 percent, according to Politico.
Macron condemned the protests through a tweet, stating, “Shame on those who have abused other citizens and journalists. Shame on those who have tried to intimidate elected officials. No room for this violence in the Republic.”
Merci à nos forces de l’ordre pour leur courage et leur professionnalisme. Honte à ceux qui les ont agressées. Honte à ceux qui ont violenté d’autres citoyens et des journalistes. Honte à ceux qui ont tenté d’intimider des élus. Pas de place pour ces violences dans la République.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 24, 2018
Moroccan transport operators also went on strike this year partially over high fuel prices. The transportation industry was left paralyzed in October after taxi and bus drivers refused to work with the expensive fuel prices, according to Moroccan news outlets. However, global oil prices have fallen recently from $81 per barrel in late September to $65.50 last week.
The truck drivers’ protest started earlier this year over the government’s requirement they take a training course costing MAD 4,000-8,000.