French authorities fear more violence to come
PARIS French authorities are worried that another wave of great violence and rioting will be unleashed in Paris this weekend by a hard core of several thousand yellow vest protesters, an official in the French presidency said yesterday.
Despite capitulating t his week over plans for fuel taxes that inspired the nationwide revolt, President Emmanuel Macron has struggled to quell the anger that led to the worst street unrest in central Paris since 1968.
Rioters torched cars, shattered windows, looted shops and sprayed and anti-Macron graffiti across some of Pariss most afflu- ent districts, even defacing the Arc de Triomphe. Scores of people were hurt and hundreds arrested in battles with police.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced l ate on Wednesday that he was scrapping the fuel-tax increases planned for 2019, having announced a sixmonth suspension the day before, in a desperate bid to defuse the worst crisis of Macrons presidency.
The Elysee official said intelligence suggested that some protesters would come to the capital to vandalise and to kill.
The threat of more violence poses a security nightmare for the authorities, who make a distinc- tion between peaceful yellow vest protesters and violent groups, anarchists and looters from the deprived suburbs who they say have infiltrated the movement.
The yellow vest protests, named for fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars, erupted in November over the squeeze on household budgets caused by fuel taxes. Demonstrations swiftly grew into a broad, sometimes-violent rebellion against Macron, with no formal leader.
Education Minister JeanMichel Blanquer urged people to stay at home during the coming weekend. Security sources said
The fuel-tax volte-face was the first major U-turn of Macrons 18-month presidency and points to an administration scrambling to regain the initiative as disenchanted citizens feel emboldened on the streets.
The unrest has exposed the deep-seated resentment among non-city dwellers that Macron is out-of-touch with t he hardpressed middle class and bluecollar labourers. They see the 40year-old former i nvestment banker as closer to big business.
Trouble is also brewing elsewhere for Macron: college students are agitating, farmers who have long complained that retailers are squeezing their margins and are furious over a delay to the planned rise in minimum food prices, and truckers are threatening to strike from Sunday.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said he was committed to fiscal justice and yesterday announced France would unilaterally impose a tax on big internet companies if European Union members failed to reach an agreement on a bloc-wide levy. REUTERS