Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will meet heads of political parties and representatives of the “yellow-vests” in an attempt to defuse the violent protests that erupted over the weekend due to the rise in diesel prices.
Since Nov. 17, violence has erupted on the streets of France and around 36,000 protesters have clashed against thousands of police officers that have been deployed to contain the demonstrators by hosing water, using tear gas and water cannons. Many demonstrators resorted to burning large sheets of plywood, torched cars, erected roadblocks, burnt barricades and garbage bins. The city’s famed Arc de Triomphe — a flashpoint in Saturday’s violent protests — was also vandalized, scrawled with slogans in support of the yellow vest movement and others criticizing Macron as the President “of the rich.”
Diesel prices rose to more than 30% per gallon and are expected to continue rising, Macron has insisted that these taxes are necessary as they can force France to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and be able to renewable energy sources, but people have remained indifferent to his statement as they believe that Macron is simply an elitist and indifferent to the rural/ poor people’s problems.
Spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the government was considering “all options” to prevent “serious outbursts of violence,” including introducing a state of emergency when he spoke on France’s Europe 1 radio Sunday. Griveaux has mocked the efforts of the yellow-vested protestors and stated that between 1,000 and 1,500 people joined Saturday’s demonstrations “only to fight with the police, to break and loot.” He added that those protesters “have nothing to do with the yellow vests.” No date has yet been set for the meeting between Philippe and the yellow vests, BFMTV reported.
So far two people have died during the protests and around 400 people have been arrested in riots, many whom are expected to appear in court as early as Monday. Macron has also asked the Ministry of the Interior to develop a policing plan to counter any further protests
Protesters took to the streets when they realised the cost of diesel had surged by 16% this year from 1.24 euros ($1.41) per litre to 1.48 euros ($1.69), even hitting 1.53 euros in October and showed no signs of reducing or stabilising.
The price hike is largely caused by a leap in the wholesale price of oil, with Brent crude oil — a benchmark for worldwide oil purchases — increasing by more than 20% in the first half of 2018 from around $60 a barrel to a peak of $86.07 in early October.
Many protesters are angry with the president for extending the environmental policies that were first implemented by former President François Hollande.
Upon his return to Paris from the G20 meeting, Macron has spent too much time in taking stock of the damage and meeting with police officers and firefighters to contain the protests. He also held an emergency security meeting with top officials on Sunday and in a written statement he paid tribute to law enforcement and rescue teams who “showed unrelenting bravery throughout the day and evening,” according to a release from the French Presidency.
The statement also said that Macron “stressed the importance of judicial follow-up so that none of the acts committed remains unpunished.”
French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said that the unrest was “absolutely unacceptable,” but added that she would not yet recommend announcing a state of emergency, stressing that there were “alternatives,” without elaborating what else was being considered.
“When there are not only defacements that are absolutely unacceptable in our republic, I think of what happened at the Arc de Triomphe, when there are fires, not only cars — there have been 55 vehicles burned but also buildings that have been burned, when there are attacks on people, including I think a rape, these are elements that cannot be acceptable in our republic.”
Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said, “There are varied profiles but there are definitely profiles of people who have come from the provinces all over France, obviously to carry out acts of violence, and it is to these people that the criminal response I will say will be the strongest.”