Protester killed at fuel tax road blockade in France

April FrancisNov 19, 2018

More than 120,000 people gathered on Saturday at 2,000 locations, blocking roundabouts and motorway exits as part of what has been dubbed the "yellow vests" protest.

The protests began at the end of a year ago after higher fuel taxes were introduced.

One protester was killed and 47 other people were injured on Saturday at roadblocks set up around France by citizens angry at rising fuel taxes, posing a new challenge to embattled French President Emmanuel Macron.

The protests, largely orchestrated on social media and which aimed to prevent road access to some fuel depots and airports, have also drawn broader support from some voters dissatisfied with Mr Macron's economic reforms and his governing style.

An investigation is under way into the death of a protester who was hit by a driver who apparently accelerated in panic while caught in a demonstration in the eastern Savoie region, according to a regional official.

Far-left party Unbowed France's leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said the number of protesters was much higher than the interior ministry's assessment and accused the government of "dramatizing" the movement.

The situation throughout the night was "agitated", Castaner said, with "aggressions, fights, knife-slashing" taking place, including among the protesters. "There were fights among ´yellow vest´ protesters".

More than 1,000 protesters congregated at the Place de la Concorde at the bottom of the Champs-Elysees, shouting "Macron resign" as police looked on.

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The popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron has dropped to just 25 percent, according to a poll by research group Ifop published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche. Almost three-quarters of respondents to a poll by the Elabe institute backed the Yellow Vests and 70% wanted the government to reverse the fuel tax hikes.

"Macron is the president of the rich and not the poor".

He said: "I think [the taxes] are not about the environment - it's for the money".

The government last week announced a series of measures to try to quell the anger over fuel prices, including energy subsidies and higher bonuses towards cleaner vehicles.

The president came to power a year ago vowing to overhaul the French economy and argues the hikes are needed to wean the French people off fossil fuels.

And police used tear gas to break up a gathering of about 1,000 protesters near the northern city of Caen, after vandalism of traffic radar and the burning of wooden pallets. Taxes on diesel fuel have risen 7 euro cents (nearly 8 USA cents) and are to keep climbing in the coming years, Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne has said.

"The goal isn't to create havoc but to get our rights back".

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