France fuel unrest: ‘Shame’ on violent protesters, says Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has lashed out at demonstrators who clashed with police in Paris during the latest protests sparked by rising fuel prices.

“Shame on those who attacked” officers, he tweeted. “There is no place for violence in the [French] Republic.”

There was chaos on the Champs-Elysées on Saturday as police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters.

The demonstrations had been billed by the “yellow vest” movement as “act two” in a campaign that began a week ago.

Named after their distinctive high-visibility attire, the protests initially focused on a rise in a fuel duty on diesel.

They later grew to reflect anger at rising living costs, particularly in rural areas, and other grievances against President Macron’s policies.

More than 100,000 people took part in about 1,600 protests across France on Saturday, the interior ministry said. Most passed off peacefully – except in the capital, where 8,000 demonstrators gathered.

Five thousand police had been deployed in Paris. They had set up metal barriers around the Champs-Élysées to stop protesters reaching key buildings such as the president’s office and the national assembly.

A spokesperson for the demonstrators insisted that they were peaceful. “We are not here to pick a fight with cops. We just want the government to listen to us,” Laetitia Dewalle told AFP news agency.

But in the morning some tried to break through the police cordon. They lit fires, tore down street signs, erected barricades, pulled up paving stones and hurled them at police while shouting slogans against Mr Macron.

The chaos continued into the evening, when police cleared most of the area.

Officials say 19 people were injured in the clashes, including four officers. Forty people were arrested.

Demonstrations were staged around the country. Roadblocks were set up to slow down traffic. Some motorway toll booths were taken over to let vehicles through.

There were a number of minor clashes. Overall 130 arrests were made.

The protests and the violence were on a much smaller scale than the previous week. Last Saturday more than 280,000 people took part, two people were killed and more than 600 people injured.

In his tweet the president praised the security forces for “their courage and their professionalism”.

He added: “Shame on those who attacked them. Shame on those who assaulted other citizens and journalists.”

French state media reported that several reporters had been attacked in the southern cities of Toulouse and Béziers.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner accused the protesters of being influenced by the leader of the far-right National Rally party, Marine Le Pen. But she accused him, on Twitter, of dishonesty.

Demonstrations were staged around the country. Roadblocks were set up to slow down traffic. Some motorway toll booths were taken over to let vehicles through.

There were a number of minor clashes. Overall 130 arrests were made.

The protests and the violence were on a much smaller scale than the previous week. Last Saturday more than 280,000 people took part, two people were killed and more than 600 people injured.-BBC

 

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