More violence has erupted across France just days after French authorities arrested a key organizer of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement.
After the protests began peacefully, Paris police deployed teargas and batons as protesters began to riot during the so-called ‘Act VIII” Day of Rage, while marches were underway in several other cities across France and London. Protesters in Paris hurled objects at riot police manning bridge barricades over the Seine river, while garbage bins were torched along the upscale Boulevard Saint Germain.
There were also skirmishes between police and protesters in the northern port city of Caen. Thousands more rallied in Bordeaux in the southwest, Rouen in the north and Marseille in the southeast, though numbers appeared far below the turnout seen in early weeks of the protests. – Reuters
#GiletsJaune très forte mobilisation à #Paris une péniche prend feu aux abords de la manifestation #Acte8 #ActeVIII #05janvier #05janvier2019 pic.twitter.com/pVEjayws7y
— LINE PRESS (@LinePress) January 5, 2019
33-year-old Eric Drouet, one of the Yellow Vest movement’s most high-profile leaders, was arrested on Wednesday night for leading an unauthorized demonstration, signaling a crackdown on the anti-government demonstrators after nearly two months of violence-filled protests.
Drouet, a truck driver from the suburbs of Paris, was arrested in Paris on Wednesday evening near the iconic Champs-Élysées avenue – a prime location for the yellow vests to gather. Drouet was detained while leading a commemoration of yellow vests who have died since the movement’s inception, most of whom were hit by cars during protests at roundabouts throughout the country, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The movement, which began as a protest against a fuel tax, evolved into a general movement against the Macron administration. France is notably the most taxed country in the world.
“They have no right to leave us in the shit like this,” said protester Francois Cordier, writes Reuters. “We’re fed up with having to pay out the whole time, we’ve had enough of this slavery, we should be able to live on our salaries.”
Macron tries to respond, and fails
The protests which have come just 18 months into Macron’s tenure, have forced the 41-year-old French President to postpone the planned fuel tax as well as grant other concessions.
Last month, Macron promised tax cuts for pensioners, wage rises for the poorest workers and the scrapping of planned fuel tax increases to quell the unrest at a cost to the Treasury of 10 billion euros ($11 billion).
The measures marked the first big U-turn for a president elected 18 months earlier on a platform to break with traditional French politics and liberalize the heavily-regulated euro zone economy.
In a New Year’s Eve address, Macron vowed to press on with his reform agenda, saying: “We can’t work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending.” –Reuters
Most recently, the Macron government announced that it would be cracking down on French executives who avoid paying taxes.
That said, the government has resisted demands from Yellow Vest protesters to reinstate the wealth tax – which Macron abolished after becoming president.