France Abandons Fuel Tax Increase After Weeks of Protest

A vandalized car and bank front are seen the morning after clashes with protesters wearing yellow vests a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel taxes in Paris France

Image A vandalized car and bank front are seen the morning after clashes with protesters

Protesters walk by burning cars during clashes with riot police on December 1, 2018 in Paris.

Police unions and city authorities met to strategize on how to handle the protests on Saturday, which are being held even though French President Emmanuel Macron surrendered Wednesday night and cancelled a fuel tax hike that had unleashed weeks of unrest.

Fuel taxes had been set to rise on January 1. More protests are expected to come on Saturday, reports Fox News. One French presidential source told news agency AFP that they fear "major violence" could hit the capital this weekend.

When it began on November 17, protests were against a rise in carbon tax which President Emmanuel Macron says is necessary to combat climate change.

Demonstrators have blocked roads nationwide, playing havoc with traffic in the busy run-up to Christmas.

Burned cars litter the streets of Paris following Saturday's unrest
Image Burned cars litter the streets of Paris following Saturday's unrest

A broken sculpture of Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic, appears damaged in the gallery inside the Arc de Triomphe during a demonstration Saturday, Dec.1, 2018 in Paris.

The French government signalled on Wednesday that it was prepared to make further concessions to "yellow vest" protesters, even raising a possible rollback on a controversial move to cut taxes for high earners past year.

The "yellow vests" are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.

"If something isn't working, we're not dumb - we'll change it", Griveaux told RTL radio, though he said "the issue is not on the table for now".

Addressing the Lower House of parliament, Edouard Philippe said the tax increase has been dropped from the 20-19 budget bill. "I'm calling for responsibility". Two police union officials told The Associated Press they are anxious that radical troublemakers from both the far-right and far-left will hijack the protests to cause even greater damage this Saturday.

Riding on the wave of the "gilet jaunes" (or "yellow vests") movement, students demanded the abandonment of changes to the exam and university entry system introduced by the Macron government previous year.

Macron, whose approval ratings are down to just 23 percent, is yet to comment publicly since returning to France from a G20 summit in Argentina on Sunday morning.

Mouraud told protesters to seize on Macron's weakness and demand other perks, such as a minimum wage hike.

But members of his government have signalled they are ready to make further concessions to avoid new violence after the U-turn on fuel tax increases. The yellow vest protesters have called him "president of the rich".

Trade unions so far have not played a role in the yellow vest protest movement but are now trying to capitalize on growing public anger.

He also visited local government offices in the central town of Puy-en-Velay, which were torched during a protest last weekend - and was booed upon leaving. Scores of people were hurt and hundreds arrested in battles with police.

One activist said Wednesday that he fears more deaths if Saturday's "yellow vest" demonstration in Paris goes ahead, and urged Macron to speak out and bring calm to the nation.

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud warned against creating "chaos" which would "do nothing to resolve the problems" of workers.

Authorities across France braced Thursday for the possibility of more riots and violence at anti-government protests this weekend, holding emergency meetings and deploying tens of thousands of police and security forces.

In the wake of calls for a large mobilisation on Saturday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner urged "responsible" protesters not to descend on Paris.

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