French police attacked demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons on November 24 as hundreds of thousands demanded President Emmanuel Macron resign over the rising cost of living.
The “yellow jacket” protests, named for the yellow high-vis jackets French motorists are obliged to have in their cars in case of breakdown, were sparked by rises in fuel duty that the government says is aimed at encouraging people to switch to electric cars.
Demonstrators built barricades in the streets and some ripped up paving stones and starting fires.
The government said the protests were a vehicle for the far right. But while fascist leader Marine Le Pen has expressed support, so have most of the country’s left including France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon. They point to cuts to public services, below-inflation pay rises and planned attacks on pensions next year are forcing people into poverty.
French Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel, said the government was responsible for violence for refusing to respond to “popular indignation”.
Polls suggest almost 80% of people support the demonstrators. Melenchon warned Macron: “When taxes are not accepted, that starts revolutions in France.”
Former environment minister Nicolas Hulot, who resigned in August, said that government attacks on the poor made revolt against fuel taxes “inevitable”.
He added: “I fought hard for the government to drastically change its approach to ensure the energy transition is socially fair. I was never listened to.”
[Abridged from Morning Star Online.]