MORE than 287,000 people attended marches and clashed with police across France again on Saturday, wearing yellow vests to oppose tax rises on fuel next year, and calling for President Macron to resign. Over 5,000 police were deployed in Paris and set up metal barriers around the Champs-Élysées to stop protesters reaching the president’s office and the national assembly.
They fired tear gas and water cannon at the demonstrators and made scores of arrests, while protesters broke through the cordon, lighting fires, tearing down street signs, erecting barricades, pulling up paving stones and hurling them at the police. World oil prices have fallen this year but the Macron government has raised hydrocarbon tax by 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, with the imposition of a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol on 1st January 2019 seen as the final straw.
There were also violent clashes in the French colony of La Reunion, an island in the Indian Ocean. France deployed soldiers to La Reunion last week after demonstrations in the remote French ‘protectorate’ escalated and schools on the island have been closed. On Reunion, an island popular with tourists, the protests have unleashed broader anger over poverty.
Macron has ordered troops onto the island, accusing protesters of ‘unacceptable’ violence and threatening to fire live rounds on them. Macron arrogantly threatened to be ‘inflexible’ against those opposing the government on the island claiming ‘you cannot accept the scenes’ that have been seen in recent days.
Announcing the deployment to the colony on Twitter last week, Macron said: ‘The situation, which has been developing in Reunion since Saturday, is serious. We have taken efforts and will continue to do so – our servicemen will be mobilised starting from Thursday to restore public order’. Local officials say 123 people have been arrested on Reunion, while 30 police officers have been injured.