The government will seek to avoid a repeat of the scenes of chaos last weekend, when thousands of protesters took the Arc de Triomphe, mounted barricades in the heart of Paris and set fire to vehicles.
The weather is still hot in France. Today the presidency said that it fears a “great violence” before the calls to demonstrate the “yellow vests” on Saturday, despite the government’s concessions, while Emmanuel Macron simultaneously made a call for calm.
“We have reason to fear great violence,” the Elysee told AFP, at a time when calls for anti-government protests are multiplying throughout the country and spreading to other sectors.
The government wants to avoid at all costs to repeat the scenes of chaos last weekend, when thousands of protesters took the Arc de Triomphe, mounted barricades in the heart of Paris and set fire to vehicles, before the incredulous gaze of residents and tourists.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, asked for his part to the political and union leaders to make a “call to calm”
“The moment we are living is no longer that of the political opposition,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said, citing Macron. “The president asked the political, union and employer forces to launch a clear and explicit call for calm,” the spokesperson added.
“The security of the French and our institutions is at stake,” said the Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, in a speech before the National Assembly.
France has been protesting for three weeks, convoked by a popular movement calling itself “yellow vests”, which began as a protest against the fuel tax hike and now reflects a broader social exasperation. Four people died and hundreds were injured on the margins of the demonstrations.
The protests began to spread to other sectors. Several high schools were blocked on Wednesday for a third day in a row against the government’s education reform, and student unions called for strikes to intensify on Thursday.
The farmers also joined the social discontent. The country’s main agricultural union announced a series of strikes next week across the country.
To try to calm the spirits, the Executive announced on Wednesday night that waives the increases of the rates to the fuels in 2019.
These increases, originally planned as of January 1, are “canceled by 2019,” said French Minister of Ecological Transition, François de Rugy. This was done to mitigate the fears of the protest movement that the measure of the rise in fuel will be re-adopted once protests have passed, he explained.
It was the first time that Macron, a 40-year-old investment banker, elected in May 2017 with the promise of “transforming” France, reversed his ambitious reform plan in the face of street pressure.
But these measures seemed to be insufficient for most of the protesters. Only two fuel tanks were unlocked after the announcements and the calls to go out to the streets on Saturday were still standing.
Éric Drouet, a spokesman for the “yellow vests”, a group that was born in social networks and that owes its name to the obligatory fluorescent garments for motorists in case of incident on the road, called the French to congregate on Saturday “close of the places of power: the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe or the Place de la Concorde “, in front of the National Assembly.
The French president was instead inflexible on another claim of the “yellow vests”, the restoration of the Tax on Fortune (ISF), which taxed the wealthiest households and was suppressed after his arrival in power.
According to the presidency, Macron told the council of ministers on Wednesday that he does not want to “undo anything that has been done for eighteen months.”
In a show of latent tension, Macron was booed and insulted on Tuesday night during a surprise visit to an official building in Puy-en-Velay, in the center of the country, which was partially set on fire last weekend.
The popularity of the young pro-European centrist continued to fall and reached its lowest level, with only 23% approval among the French.
Despite the violence that has marred the demonstrations, 72% of the French continue to support the “yellow vests”, according to an Elabe poll published on Wednesday, and 78% believe that government announcements are not enough.
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