2nd December 2018
President Emmanuel Macron has been forced to chair an emergency security meeting, following a day of riots by hundreds of anti-government protesters in Paris. One government spokesman has said that a ‘state of emergency’ could be imposed to tackle the social unrest – following over two weeks of civil unrest in France.
More than 400 people were arrested on Saturday, with over 300 remaining in police custody on Sunday. President Macron recognised the legitimate concerns of peaceful protesters and said that he would hear their ‘anger’, but he denounced the infiltration of rioters across France. In Buenos Aires, at a news conference, President Macron said he ‘will never accept violence’.
Shouts could be heard from the estimated 5,000 gilet jaunes demonstrators at the Champs Élysées: ‘Macron, resign!’ But, by the afternoon the streets witnessed battles between rioters and police. Police have fired tear gas, stun grenades, and deployed a water canon against the disorderly protesters in Paris. Christophe Castaner, Interior Minister, claimed that thousands of troublemakers had come to ‘pillage, smash, steal, wound and even kill’. He claimed those rioters were ‘professionals at causing disorder’.
Who are the protesters in France?
It is estimated that 300,000 individuals participated in the first country-wide demonstration on 17 November. Grievances include ‘rising taxes’ and ‘falling standards of living’. One of the protesters stated: ‘We’ve got no choice. We have to use our cars in the countryside.’ In response to be questioned about their economic struggles, she said: ‘Every day we feel the impact.’
Protesters are from various locations and have a range of political affiliations – the most common attribute is their anger toward the fuel increases in France.
The price of diesel has risen by around 23% to 1.51 per litre in the past twelve months – its highest since the early 2000s. Oil prices began to fall, but the increase was exacerbated by the hydrocarbon tax which was raised by 7.6% per litre of diesel in 2018. His decision to impose a further increase of 7.6% on diesel in January 2019 has been seen as the cause of the demonstrations in France.
Concerns initially centred on the price of fuel, which led to yellow vests (gilet jaunes) being used as a symbol to unite drivers across France. However, demonstrators have now been raising concerns surrounding the cost of living for individuals and families in France.