French President Emmanuel Macron has today caved in and suspended hated fuel tax hikes in a 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 Yellow Vest movement which erupted last month.
But Yellow Vest fuel protesters who have reduced Paris and other cities and towns to warzones over the past two weekends said their demonstrations would continue as they campaign for more tax reductions.
French President Emmanuel Macron has today caved in and suspended hated fuel tax hikes in a victory for the Yellow Vest protesters. Pictured: 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 this 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 this morning
Macron (pictured) has not spoken publicly about Saturday’s destruction in Paris since his return from a G20 summit in Argentina on Sunday
Edouard Philippe (pictured today) 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.
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.
Student anger: High school students protesting plans to apply academic selection at public universities clashed with riot police on Orleans yesterday
An overturned car burns in flames during the protests in Paris on Saturday, which grew into one of France’s worst urban riots
Violence: A high school student clashes with a riot police officer in Bordeaux, southwestern France, while protesting the education reforms which will see some university apply admissions criteria
Conservative leaders Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy were notorious for withdrawing unpopular policies because of street disturbances, as were their Socialist counterparts.
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.
No kid gloves: High school students run away from tear gas during a demonstration in Bordeaux, southwestern France, as thousands of teenagers stage blockades and walk-outs across the country
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 yesterday
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.