France’s yellow vest protesters pile more pressure on President Macron

Riot police are silhouetted as clashses with protesters wearing yellow vests (gilets jaunes) and radical elements move into the Tuileries gardens as part of a demonstration over high fuel prices on the Champs Elysee in Paris, France, Dec. 1, 2018. EPA/YOAN VALAT

Paris,- Anti-government protesters clashed with police around the Champs-Élysées for the third consecutive weekend, maintaining pressure on President Emmanuel Macron to backtrack on policies that have sparked widespread discontent, according to a report by Dow Jones Newswires made available to EFE on Saturday.

Riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to push back thousands of «gilets jaunes» – or yellow vests – protesters who gathered near the renowned avenue and around the Arc de Triomphe on Saturday.

Some spray-painted «Macron Resign» and other slogans on the monument.

A smattering of protesters threw projectiles at police barricades. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said 107 people were arrested.

«I am not happy with these images,» Philippe said as networks carried live broadcasts of the clashes. «They shock us.»

The gilets jaunes movement sprung up in response to Macron’s proposal to raise taxes on diesel fuel. But it has morphed into a broad anti-government movement for those who say Macron’s policies favor the wealthy and punish the working class.

Polls show that three-quarters of the French public support the yellow vests. Macron’s approval rating has fallen below 30 percent as the movement has gathered momentum over the past month.

«Macron taxes people like us,» said Cyril Goursaud, a factory worker from the city of Limoges who traveled to Paris for Saturday’s protests. «Anything to make the rich more rich, he does.»

Saturday’s protest appeared smaller than those of previous weekends, with police estimating turnout in the tens of thousands across France.

Still, protesters dominated the streets and airwaves by swarming the Arc de Triomphe and torching cars in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Barricades built in the middle of the city’s tree-lined avenues were also lighted ablaze, sending black plumes above the Parisian skyline.

As police pushed protesters away from the Arc de Triomphe, mayhem spread to other areas.

Groups of protesters were seen using shovels to smash storefronts and car windows along Avenue Kléber, one of the French capital’s most upscale streets.

Smoke from burning cars soon enveloped the street, and cafés quickly closed.

TV images showed protesters occupying a stretch of the Rue de Rivoli that borders the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre museum, smashing a shop window and setting trash on fire.

Such scenes are likely to test the resolve of Macron, who has refused to change course, sticking to his fuel-tax increase as well as his pro-business overhaul of France’s economy.

Macron is able to forge ahead because he has a commanding majority in Parliament.

But a handful of lawmakers in his party have begun to publicly question his stance on the fuel tax. Macron, a former investment banker, is also under pressure to counter opponents who have branded him the «president of the rich.»

The demonstration was also a show of force as protesters took over areas in the heart of Paris where police are heavily concentrated.

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