French President Emmanuel Macron has abandoned his hated fuel tax after weeks of violent protest and will considering buckling to another ‘yellow vest’ demand to tax the rich.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told lawmakers that ‘the tax is now abandoned’ in the 2019 budget, and the government is ‘ready for dialogue’ on Wednesday.
Three weeks of carnage involving blocked roads and fuel depots have left four people dead.
Ending the ISF ‘wealth tax’ on high earners was a key part of Macron’s pro-business presidential campaign, seen as a way of encouraging people to invest and hire in France.
A French riot police officer stands next to a burning barricade during a demonstration against French government Education reforms on Wednesday morning
High school students set a barricade on fire to block the tramway during a demonstration against French government’s policies on Wednesday
Protesters wearing yellow vests, the symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel prices, occupy a roundabout in Somain on Wednesday
French Government’s spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux (center) said the issue of the ISF ‘wealth tax’ could be changed ‘if something’s not working. Pictured: Griveaux greets yellow vested protesters while visiting an electronics company last week
Police attack defenceless protesters in horrific video
By Peter Allen for MailOnline
Horrific video of police attacking defenceless protesters during the Paris riots has emerged in France.
The shocking images are the latest evidence of Republican Security Companies (CRS) acting with immense brutality.
They show so-called Yellow Vest fuel price demonstrators caught inside a Burger King fast food restaurant in Avenue Wagram, close to the Arc de Triomphe, last Saturday.
The men and women – who take their name from the high visibility jackets all motorists have to carry in France – cover their heads with their hands as blows rain down.
‘Get out! Get out!’ the police shout as they force their victims on to the ground, and then repeatedly assault them.
When the police realise that journalists are filming them, they let the Yellow Vests go, and turn their anger on those with cameras.
Horz-Zone Press (Out of the Zone Press), the online news outlet that posted the video on YouTube, appealed for witness to the attacks to come forward.
The unnamed filmer said the Yellow Vests had taken refuge inside the Burger King at around 7pm, because of the amount of tear gas on the street outside.
They said the CRS blasted more gas inside the Burger King, before moving in.. Nobody was arrested.
There was no initial reaction to the appearance of the video from the CRS, or from Paris police or prosecutors.
Paris was reduced to a warzone by anti-government protests on Saturday, and the police had lost control of many areas by 7pm.
Another astonishingly brutal video showed officers chasing down another man in Rue de Beri, also close to the Arc de Triomphe, and just off the Champs Elysee.
The unnamed man covers his head with his hands as other police join in, and they can be heard telling him to ‘shut your mouth’ as the violence intensifies.
Beyond hitting the man, they kick him in sensitive areas, and stamp on his head.
The arrested man – who has not been identified – was eventually handcuffed and then taken away.
But critics accused him of favouring the rich while his government raised taxes on pensioners and others.
The ‘yellow vest’ movement, which originally erupted over anger at fuel tax increases, has ballooned into a wider protest over rising costs of living and a perceived disregard by Macron for the problems facing rural and small-town France.
Restoring the wealth tax became one of the protesters’ key demands, along with the end of fuel tax increases and a higher minimum wage.
Griveaux asked for ’18 to 24 months to let the measure take its full effects,’ saying parliament would review the results in late 2019.
He added that the government would also permanently end the fuel tax hikes planned for January, which were suspended this week as the government called for talks with protesters, if no agreement were reached.
‘We’re going to look for solutions together. If at the end of these discussions no good solutions have been found, we will accept the consequences’ Griveaux said.
‘We’re not in politics to be right. We’re in politics so that things work out,’ he said.
High school students demonstrate next to an overturned and damaged car which was turned over during Wednesday morning’s protests in Bordeaux
Students gather inside the closed Tobiac university in Paris on Wednesday to occupy the buildings in response to the government’s educational reforms
A protester wearing a yellow vest, the symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel fuel prices, holds a flag near burning debris at the approach to the A2 Paris-Brussels Motorway on Tuesday
Demonstrators gather near the Arc de Triomphe as a French flag floats during a protest of Yellow vests, the so-called ‘Gilets jaunes’, against rising oil prices and living costs over the weekend
Macron (pictured) has not spoken publicly about Saturday’s destruction in Paris since his return from a G20 summit in Argentina on Sunday
French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday caved in and suspended hated fuel tax hikes in a victory for the Yellow Vest protesters. But clashes continued on Tuesday with students burning debris in Bordeaux outside their high school during a demonstration against French government education reforms
In a humiliating U-turn, the government said it was planning to freeze upcoming increases on regulated electricity and gas prices following emergency talks at the Elysee Palace. This was the scene in Bordeaux on Tuesday as students took to the streets for another protest
A masked protester confronts police officers during a demonstration against French government education reforms in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on Tuesday
Flash point: A protester braces as two officers with shields and batons charge towards him during a violent clash in Bordeaux on Tuesday
Yesterday, Macron caved in and suspended hated fuel tax hikes in a landmark victory for the Yellow Vest protesters.
In a humiliating U-turn, the government said it was planning to freeze upcoming increases on regulated electricity and gas prices following emergency talks at the Elysee Palace.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told MPs that stricter vehicle emission controls set to kick in in January 2019 will also be suspended – one of the demands of the movement which erupted last month.
Government sources say the planned six-month suspension will cost 2 billion euros (£1.78 billion) with the hole in public finances funded entirely by corresponding spending cuts.
But activists, who have reduced Paris and other cities and towns to war zones over the past two weekends, said their demonstrations will continue as they campaign for more tax reductions.
There were fresh protests around France on Tuesday with students torching a barricade in Bordeaux and roadside demonstrations taking place on motorways in Aix-en-Provence and near Paris.
A protester holds a flag with the words ‘to arms’ scrawled on it near burning debris at the approach to the A2 Paris-Brussels Motorway on Tuesday morning
The suspension will be accompanied by other measures aimed at calming two weeks of nationwide demonstrations, the sources said. A protester sits under a French flag near burning debris near the A2 Paris-Brussels motorway in Fontaine-Notre-Dame on Tuesday morning
Edouard Philippe (pictured on Tuesday) has announced a suspension of fuel tax increases planned for January 1 in a bid to end the violent ‘yellow vest’ protests
‘It’s a first step, but we don’t want crumbs,’ said Benjamin Cauchy, a spokesman for the movement, which takes its name from the high visibility yellow jackets that all motorists are expected to own in France.
‘Demonstrations will continue as we fight for further demands,’ said Mr Cauchy. He added that he had received ’30 death threats’ after pleading for his movement to halt its campaign of violence.
In announcing the decision, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said anyone would have ‘to be deaf or blind’ not to see or hear the roiling anger on the streets over a policy that Macron has defended as critical to combating climate change.
‘The French who have donned yellow vests want taxes to drop, and work to pay. That’s also what we want. If I didn’t manage to explain it, if the ruling majority didn’t manage to convince the French, then something must change,’ said Philippe.
‘No tax is worth jeopardising the unity of the nation.’
But a day after prime minister Edouard Philippe announced a suspension of planned fuel tax hikes that sparked protests, the burgeoning ‘yellow vest’ protest movement showed no sign of slowing down.
Students opposed to a university application system remained mobilised, trucking unions called for a rolling strike and France’s largest farm union threatened to launch protests next week.
Trade unions have not played a role in the co-ordination of the improvised movement so far but are now trying to take advantage of growing anger among the public.
A joint statement from the CGT and FO trucking unions protesting over a cut to overtime rates called for action from Sunday night and asked for an urgent meeting with transport minister Elisabeth Borne.
Although most of the fuel depots blocked by protesters have been cleared, fuel shortages continued to hit several parts of France on Wednesday, with hundreds of petrol stations affected.
A barricade was torched in the street as high school students protested outside their college in the southwestern city of Bordeaux on Tuesday morning
Demonstrators wearing yellow vests stand at the toll gates on a motorway near Aix-en-Provence, southeastern France, yesterday
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a suspension of fuel tax hikes Tuesday, a major U-turn in an effort to appease a protest movement that has radicalized and plunged Paris into chaos last weekend. This was the scene of another protest at a toll gate near Aix-en-Provence
Police riot officers clean up a blockade during a demonstration against French government education reforms in Bordeaux
Wearing their signature yellow vests, demonstrators were back at toll booths on Wednesday to express their demands, ranging from income and pension rises to the dissolution of the national assembly.
Meanwhile, high school students’ union FIDL called for a ‘massive and general mobilisation’ on Thursday and urged education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer to step down.
Along with the delay to the tax increases that were set for January, Philippe said the time would be used to discuss other measures to help the working poor and squeezed middle-class who rely on vehicles to get to work and go shopping.
Earlier officials had hinted at a possible increase to the minimum wage, but Philippe made no such commitment.
He warned citizens, however, that they could not expect better public services and lower taxes.
Students gathered around to watch as plastic bins burned in the street outside their school in the southwestern city of Bordeaux
A police riot officer stands guard near a fire during a demonstration of students in Bordeaux, southwestern France, yesterday
French riot police used tear gas on high school students who could be seen sprinting away from the scene in Bordeaux
What do the Yellow Vest protesters want and will Macron’s U-turn end the violence?
The French government has announced a major U-turn in suspending fuel tax rises in a bid to end increasingly violent demonstrations. But who are the ‘yellow vest’ protesters, and will the tax relief and other concessions be enough to mollify their anger?
Who are the protesters?
The ‘gilet jaune’ (yellow vest) movement sprang up in late October against increases in fuel taxes announced as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to pursue clean energy policies.
Donning the luminous safety vests French drivers must carry in their cars, the protesters have blocked roads and petrol depots for more than a fortnight, playing havoc with traffic in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.
And in Paris, more than 200 cars were torched during protests last weekend that degenerated into the worst street clashes in the city centre in decades.
While the protests began over fuel taxes, they have snowballed into a wider movement against Macron, largely among people in small-town and rural France.
The protesters see the former investment banker as an arrogant ‘president of the rich’ who is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people in the provinces.
Yet different protesters have different aims: Some remain focused on lowering fuel taxes, while others want Macron to resign.
Many also want to reverse tax cuts that Macron introduced for France’s wealthiest in a bid to boost investment.
Underpinning the movement is a widespread complaint that overlooked provincial workers on modest incomes barely scrape by after paying some of the highest tax bills in Europe.
The French government has announced a major U-turn in suspending fuel tax rises in a bid to end increasingly violent demonstrations. This was the scene in Bordeaux today as students torched bins outside their school
An apolitical movement with members who vote for parties of various stripes, the ‘yellow vests’ have won support from everyone from far-right leader Marine Le Pen to far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.
What has the government offered protesters?
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday announced a series of measures aimed at quelling the anger.
Planned increases in fuel taxes will be suspended for six months, as will stricter pollution tests on cars aimed at encouraging drivers to shift to cleaner vehicles.
Increases in electricity and gas prices will also be frozen during the winter.
A 500-million-euro ($570 million) relief package for poorer households had earlier failed to stave off the protests.
Tuesday’s climbdown represents a major departure for a president who had vowed, unlike previous French leaders, not to be forced into changing course by large street movements.
Will the new measures be enough?
Some protesters signalled they were satisfied with the government climbdown, including a group who said they would lift their blockade of a petrol depot in Brest, in Brittany.
But another group blocking a petrol depot in Le Mans, western France, said they would press on.
Marc Beaulaton, a retired 59-year-old nuclear safety worker, dismissed the government’s offerings as ‘mini-measures’.
‘The government is trying to put us to sleep,’ said Lionel Rambeaux, a 41-year-old welder.
The movement has swollen by amassing people who are angry at Macron for various reasons – but this also makes it harder for protesters to agree on their aims.
‘The dynamic of the movement is such that it’s not certain the government’s measures can stop it,’ said Jerome Sainte-Marie, head of the PollingVox polling agency.
‘What’s more likely is that these measures divide the movement.’
The ‘gilet jaune’ (yellow vest) movement sprang up in late October against increases in fuel taxes announced as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to pursue clean energy policies
Jerome Fourquet, an analyst at pollsters IFOP, predicted many protesters would suspect the government of trying to pacify them now only to bring back the taxes later.
‘Significant as they are, these announcements come relatively late,’ he said.
‘They may have had a different effect if they’d been announced a week ago.’
Emerging without leaders via social media, the ‘yellow vests’ have tried to become more organised, nominating an eight-person delegation to negotiate with the government.
But some members have refused to recognise the representatives chosen in a Facebook ballot, and the government has found it difficult to negotiate with the grassroots movement.
A group of moderate protesters had been due to meet with officials at Philippe’s office on Monday but pulled out, saying they had received threats from ‘anarchist kids’ for agreeing to the meeting.
‘If the events of recent days have shown us one thing, it’s that the French want neither an increase in taxes or new taxes.
‘If the tax-take falls then spending must fall, because we don’t want to pass our debts on to our children. And those debts are already sizeable,’ he said.
There has been a mixed reaction to the riots in French newspapers. This morning, in an editorial, Le Figaro spoke of a ‘democratic crisis’ and ‘confusion at its height’ with the yellow vests ‘turning in circles and devouring each other’ while ‘the executive comment and consult’.
Le Parisien told of the ‘traders hit by thugs and looting’ while Libération, in on its front page predicted today’s government announcement, saying: ‘Fearing contagion, the executive reflects on quick concessions.’
There were more than 400 arrests in Paris at the weekend, as thousands fought running battles with riot police.
Yellow Vest demonstrators were joined by sympathisers from the far-Right and the ulta-Left, as the anarchy lasted at least 12 hours.
National monuments including the Arc de Triomphe were sacked and other buildings were burnt out as looters stole thousands of pounds worth of goods from high-end boutiques around the Champs Elysee, and from bars and chemists.
There were calls for a State of Emergency to be announced, and for the Army to take to the streets, as some 4500 police in Paris at times lost all control of the streets.
Despite this, Mr Macron has pledged to carry on with his policy of increasing the price of petrol and diesel, in line with the Paris Climate Change agreement.
He had said there would be ‘no possibility whatsoever’ of his government backing down in the face of disturbances, but now he joins a long list of French presidents who have bowed down to rioters.
Conservative leaders Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy were notorious for withdrawing unpopular policies because of street disturbances, as were their Socialist counterparts.
Up in smoke: Bins and debris burn in the street during another flash point in Bordeaux where students have been protesting against education reforms
The suspension of planned fuel tax increases for six-months, announced by the French government to appease so-called ‘yellow vest’ protesters, will cost 2 billion euros (£1.78billion), a government source told Reuters on Tuesday
Fire crews were called in to put out a fire that was started in the street during a student protest in Bordeaux yesterday
French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s approval ratings hit new lows as the ‘yellow vest’ protests gathered pace, according to an Ifop-Fiducial poll for Paris Match and Sud Radio published on Tuesday
Trucks and cars line up at a toll gate as demonstrators open the toll gates on a motorway near Aix-en-Provence, southeastern France yesterday
Macron’s approval rating fell to 23 per cent in the poll conducted late last week, down six points on the previous month. Philippe’s rating fell 10 points to 26 percent
A demonstrator holds a placard reading ‘Free Toll’ as they open the toll gates on a motorway near Biarritz, southwestern France
Marine Le Pen (left), leader of the Rassemblement National far-right party arrives for a meeting with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (not pictured) at Matignon in Paris on Monday
The Yellow Vests movements has widespread support across France after developing into an anti-establishment campaign.
The current spate of violence is considered the worst since the Spring of 1968, when President Charles de Gaulle’s government feared a full-blown revolution.
Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron and Philippe’s approval ratings have hit new lows as the protests gathered pace, according to an Ifop-Fiducial poll for Paris Match and Sud Radio published on Tuesday.
Macron’s approval rating fell to 23 per cent in the poll conducted late last week, down six points on the previous month. Philippe’s rating fell 10 points to 26 per cent.
The president’s score matches the low charted by his predecessor Francois Hollande in late 2013, according to Paris Match. Hollande was then considered to be the least popular leader in modern French history.
The first ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations were held on November 17 to contest fuel-tax rises, and have since evolved into a broader protest movement and anti-Macron uprising.
It continued yesterday with riot police using tear gas to quell high school student protests across France. One shocking video showed police firing smoke grenades at teenagers who kicked them back at officers as violence escalated.
Another showed teenagers fleeing from police tear gas in Orleans while cars were set on fire outside a high school in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, where seven students were arrested following a walk-out.
Around 1,000 pupils, many wearing high-vis vests, demonstrated in the city of Nice, and photographs from another student protest in Bordeaux appear to show riot police using batons against teenagers.
Hundreds of schools across the country were totally or partially blocked by students piggybacking on the ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations to air frustration over new university entrance requirements.
President Macron’s government want universities to be able to apply admissions criteria and select students on merits such as exam results or entrance exams for some oversubscribed degrees.