One killed in French protests of in­creases in price of diesel fuel

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - News - BY JAMES MCAULEY

The French pres­i­dent is un­der fire again, this time over ris­ing fuel prices.

On Satur­day, some 244,000 pro­test­ers, many clad in yel­low vests, not only took to the streets, but in many places lit­er­ally took the streets, ac­cord­ing to the French In­te­rior Min­istry. The min­istry said a net­work of driv­ers blocked roads at some 2,000 lo­ca­tions across the coun­try, gen­er­at­ing traf­fic back­ups for miles and caus­ing one death.

A 63-year-old pro­tester was killed in the eastern Savoie re­gion when a driver pan­icked by de­mon­stra­tors ac­ci­den­tally ac­cel­er­ated into the crowd, French me­dia re­ported. In other in­ci­dents na­tion­wide, 106 peo­ple were re­ported in­jured, five se­ri­ously.

The pro­test­ers’ chief com­plaint: the ris­ing cost of diesel fuel. The re­cent price hike is a direct re­sult of Em­manuel Macron’s com­mit­ment to curb­ing cli­mate change, which in­cluded higher car­bon taxes for 2018, the first full year of his term.

Be­yond the diesel is­sue, many turned out to voice any num­ber of other frus­tra­tions with the so-called “pres­i­dent for the rich,” who is seen as in­creas­ingly re­moved from or­di­nary peo­ple’s con­cerns.

Diesel, a fos­sil fuel, is known for the pol­lu­tants it emits into the air. Al­though it was tra­di­tion­ally taxed at the same rate as petrol, that is no longer the case: Taxes on diesel have risen by 6.2 per­cent per liter this year, as part of the govern­ment’s ef­forts to pro­tect clean air.

The prob­lem is that diesel re­mains the most com­mon fuel in France, lead­ing many to view re­cent poli­cies as an at­tack on work­ing peo­ple more than an en­vi­ron­men­tal safe­guard.

The stir­rings of the “yel­low vest” cam­paign be­hind Satur­day’s protest be­gan this sum­mer, with on­line pe­ti­tions urg­ing Macron to re­con­sider. The loud­est voice was that of Ja­cline Mouraud, a white-haired hyp­no­tist and grand­mother who has be­come the star of the move­ment.

“I have two lit­tle words for Mr. Macron and his govern­ment,” she said, in a YouTube video that has gar­nered mil­lions of views. “You have per­se­cuted driv­ers since the day you took of­fice. This will con­tinue for how long?”

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