Saturday saw violence erupting in Paris between police and thousands of protesters in the French capital. While France has a ban on protests, that didn’t stop angry citizens from taking to the streets in the city center to publicly object to the rising cost of fuel in the country.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, protesters flocked to the Champs Elysées, the famous shopping street in Paris, wearing their reflective yellow gear that has earned them the nickname gilets jaunes (yellow vests). This is the second straight week of unrest across the country over fuel prices.
The country’s interior minister has blamed the far-right for the country-wide demonstrations, as citizens have made known their dissatisfaction with the poor growth in the French economy in the past year. The economy has grown only 1.6 percent this year, falling behind the rest of the European Union as unemployment in France has soared. Another factor fueling the dissent in the country is President Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity has plunged recently.
During the demonstrations on Saturday, protesters sang the national anthem while they waved the national flag, and many carried signs that called for Macron’s resignation. The violence erupted when some decided to start throwing stones at riot police, who responded by throwing teargas into the crowds.
Across the country, at least 130 people involved in protests were arrested, which includes the 42 detained in Paris. A total of around 106,000 people took to the streets in France on Saturday.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner laid the blame solely at the feet of Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right party National Rally and Macron’s opponent in the last election. Le Pen has been inciting anger and encouraging people to protest on the Champs Elysées despite an official ban on the practice at the location.
“Today, the far right has mobilized,” Castaner told reporters. “The security forces perfectly anticipated this situation. The right to protest cannot go beyond the respect of the fundamental law of our country.”
Authorities passed the ban on the Champs Elysées, hoping to contain what was supposed to be a peaceful march to the Champs de Mars park near the Eiffel Tower.
“Thanks to police for their courage and professionalism. Shame on those who attacked them. Shame on those who assaulted other citizens and journalists. Shame on those who tried to intimidate elected representatives. There’s no room for violence in our republic,” President Macron tweeted on Saturday following the demonstrations.
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