French pro­test­ers take to streets over gas prices

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - World | Deaths - BY THOMAS ADAM­SON Associated Press

PARIS

French po­lice fired tear gas and wa­ter can­nons to dis­perse vi­o­lent demon­stra­tors in Paris on Satur­day, as thou­sands gath­ered in the cap­i­tal and be­yond and staged road block­ades to vent anger against ris­ing fuel taxes.

Thou­sands of po­lice were de­ployed na­tion­wide to con­tain the eighth day of deadly demon­stra­tions that started as protests against tax but mor­phed into a re­buke of Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and the per­ceived elitism of France’s rul­ing class. Two peo­ple have been killed since Nov. 17 in protest-re­lated tragedies.

Tense clashes on the Champs-El­y­sees that ended by dusk Satur­day saw po­lice face off with demon­stra­tors who burned ply­wood, wielded plac­ards read­ing “Death to Taxes” and up­turned a large ve­hi­cle.

At least 19 peo­ple, in­clud­ing four po­lice of­fi­cers, were slightly hurt and one per­son had more se­ri­ous in­juries in the day of un­rest in Paris, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Macron re­sponded in a strongly worded tweet: “Shame on those who at­tacked (po­lice). Shame on those who were vi­o­lent against other cit­i­zens. … No place for this vi­o­lence in the Repub­lic.”

Po­lice said that dozens of pro­test­ers were de­tained for “throw­ing pro­jec­tiles,” among other acts. By night­fall the Champs-El­y­sees was smol­der­ing and in the Place de la Madeleine, burned scoot­ers lay on the side­walk like black­ened shells.

“It’s go­ing to trig­ger a civil war and me, like most other cit­i­zens, we’re all ready,” said Ben­jamin Vrig­naud, a 21-year-old protest- er from Chartres.

“They take ev­ery­thing from us. They steal ev­ery­thing from us,” said 21-yearold Laura Cor­don­nier.

The famed av­enue was speck­led with plumes of smoke and neon — ow­ing to the color of the vests the self-styled “yel­low jacket” pro­test­ers don. French driv­ers are re­quired to keep neon se­cu­rity vests in their ve­hi­cles.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Christophe Cas­taner said that 8,000 pro­test­ers flooded the Champs-El­y­sees at the demon­stra­tion’s peak and there were nearly 106,000 pro­test­ers and 130 ar­rests in to­tal na­tion­wide.

Cas­taner de­nounced pro­test­ers from the far-right whom he called “re­bel­lious,” as he ac­cused Na­tional As­sem­bly leader Marine Le Pen of en­cour­ag­ing them.

But the In­te­rior Min­istry played down the scale of Satur­day’s demon­stra­tions by high­light­ing that up to 280,000 peo­ple took part in last Satur­day’s protest.

The un­rest is prov­ing a ma­jor chal­lenge for em­bat­tled Macron, who’s suf­fer­ing in the polls.

The leader, who swept to power only last year, is the fo­cus of rage for the “yel­low jacket” demon­stra­tors who ac­cuse the pro-busi­ness cen­trist of elitism and in­dif­fer­ence to the strug­gles of or­di­nary French.

Macron has held strong and in­sisted the fuel tax rises are a nec­es­sary pain to re­duce France’s de­pen­dence on fos­sil fu­els and fund re­new­able en­ergy in­vest­ments — a cor­ner­stone of his re­forms of the na­tion.

Paris de­ployed some 3,000 se­cu­rity forces on Satur­day, no­tably around tourist-fre­quented ar­eas, af­ter an unau­tho­rized at­tempt last week to march on the pres­i­den­tial El­y­see Palace.

CHRISTOPHE ENA AP

French po­lice fired tear gas and wa­ter can­nons to dis­perse vi­o­lent demon­stra­tors near the Arc de Tri­om­phe in Paris,

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