Thousands of French protesters flooded the nation’s capital Saturday to demonstrate against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial fuel tax increase — clashing with policies as they called for Macron’s resignation.
The angry clashes, both in Paris and other towns and cities across the country, mark the eighth day of “yellow jacket” protests against the tax, but have also come to encompass a growing anger against Macron and the French ruling class — seen by many as out of touch
The yellow jackets have become a uniform of sorts for the protesters, originating from the neon yellow jackets French drivers are required to keep in their vehicles.
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.
Authorities said that at least 8,000 protesters flooded the Champs-Elysees in Paris alone, with 81,000 protesters in total nationwide compared to 244,000 last Saturday. Police deployed some 3,000 security forces after an attempt to march on the Elysee Palace last week.
Police used smoke, tear gas and even a water cannon to try and disperse the protesters, Le Mondere reported.
Officials said that a no-go zone, set up around key areas including the presidential palace and the National Assembly on the Left Bank of the Seine River, has not been breached.
At least eight people, including two police officers, were injured, while dozens of protesters were detained, including for throwing projectiles.
In La Madeleine, an area filled with luxury brand shops popular with tourists, businesses shut down due to the protests.
Demonstrators created a fire barricade and began chanting “Macron resign!” when tear gas was launched at them, sparking a brief dash. Thick black smoke was billowing into the sky and the area was completely shut.
French police appeared have created a barricade in the area to prevent the protesters from joining the rest of the group at the Elysee Palace. Sky News reported that other protesters sang the national anthem, called Macron a thief and demanded his resignation.
In other cities, such as Lyon and Marseille, protests were more peaceful.
The diesel fuel tax has gone up seven euro cents (nearly eight U.S. cents) and will keep climbing in coming years, according to Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne. The tax on gasoline is set to increase by four euro cents. Gasoline currently costs about 1.64 euros a liter in Paris ($7.06 a gallon), slightly more than diesel.
Macron, however, has said that gas tax increases are necessary to reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy investments.
The protests are the latest blow for Macron, who has been dogged by sinking internal poll ratings for months, dropping into the 20s as he has struggled to shed the perception that he is an out-of-touch elitist.
Responding to those concerns, Macron has noted that he does not face any midterm elections and told Bloomberg News in October he intends to keep “exactly the same pace” with his reforms.