UPDATE 2 — 12/10, 3:18 p.m. EDT: Following four weeks of spirited protests, President Macron announced Monday a number of policy changes to quell the economic unrest in Paris and throughout France.
Notably, the French government will increase the minimum wage by the equivalent of approximately $114 per month and eliminate a tax on overtime wages, as well as declare “an economic and social state of emergency.”
UPDATE — 12/8, 5:36 p.m. EDT: 1,385 of an estimated 10,000 were arrested in Paris Saturday according to the French Interior Minister, as “Yellow Jacket” protesters continued to rebel against the high-tax policies of President Emmanuel Macron.
A total of 125,000 were involved in demonstrations throughout France.
In a stunning about-turn Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced he will not go ahead with a planned fuel tax for 2019. The proposed tax had been part of his government’s plan to combat climate change, but followed unpopular austerity measures widely decried as being beneficial to the wealthy and harmful to the working class.
For weeks, Paris and other cities have been paralyzed by large-scale demonstrations organized by the “Yellow Jackets”, an anti-austerity movement without a clear leadership structure. Among the movement’s demands are an end to austerity measures, cancellation of the fuel tax and the resignation of President Macron.
Security officials have expressed concerns far-right extremists and anarchists from the so-called “Black Block” may be piggy-backing off of the larger movement.
Paris and other cities have witnessed considerable violence over the past few weeks, to which the government has responded with plans to increase nation’s police presence to 89,000, deploy armored vehicles and close off popular tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower.
Six professional soccer matches have also been cancelled as officials expressed concerns that the violence may escalate in the coming days. Comparisons are being drawn between the ongoing disturbances and the dramatic uprisings of May 1968.
The reversal marks a major setback for Macron, whose government had earlier failed to mollify protesters with the promise of consultations.
At present, Macron’s approval stands at a dismal 23 percent, while 72 percent of respondents expressed support for the Yellow Jackets.
Another recent poll has placed right-wing populist National Rally party, led by Marine Le Pen, narrowly ahead of President Macron’s centrist En Marche — problematic for a leader once lauded as the antidote to populism. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2019.
A statement released by the presidential residence promises to find new solutions to combating climate change while protecting “the purchasing power of citizens,” in an attempt to conciliate the demonstrators.
[Politico] [Reuters] [BBC] [NBC News] [The Guardian] [Photo courtesy AFP via BBC]