Law enforcement and fire patrol are struggling to keep the peace (and keep the Champs-Élysées from burning) in Paris as riotous protests enter their eighth day.
Although the most violent — and deadliest — demonstrations have taken place in Paris, protests are being held country-wide over a proposed increase in France’s “fuel tax” designed to curb fuel usage and cut down on carbon emissions to prevent “climate change.” French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing the tax to help cut down on the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and to “fund renewable energy projects,” according to the Associated Press.
“The anger is mainly over a hike in the diesel fuel tax, which has gone up seven euro cents per liter (nearly 30 U.S. cents per gallon) and will keep climbing in coming years, according to Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne. The tax on gasoline is also to increase four euro cents. Gasoline currently costs about 1.64 euros a liter in Paris ($7.06 a gallon), slightly more than diesel,” the AP says.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters, clad in the bright green safety vests all Parisians are required to keep in their car for emergencies, set fire to barricades in a massive bonfire near the famous Arc de Triomphe, and waged a campaign of destruction along Paris’s main shopping and dining thoroughfare, the Champs-Élysées.
More than a dozen people — including one police officer — have been hurt in the melee, and one person has been seriously injured. More than 3,000 law enforcement officers have been deployed to contain the situation and enforce “no-go” zones around government buildings and in heavily trafficked tourist areas.
The AP reports: “Thousands of police were deployed nationwide to contain the eighth day of deadly demonstrations that started as protests against tax but morphed into a rebuke of President Emmanuel Macron and the perceived elitism of France’s ruling class.”
“It’s going to trigger a civil war and me, like most other citizens, we’re all ready,” one protester told the Associated Press.
The New York Times reports that the protesters aren’t from the “far right” or the “far left/Antifa” exclusively. “Welling up rapidly from rural and forgotten France, this broad-based, citizen-driven movement is among the most serious challenges yet to President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business government.”
Macron has a bare-bones, 29% approval rating among his countrymen, and American President Donald Trump wasted no time in pointing out that Americans — not just the French — have been shockingly mistreated by Macron’s agenda.
Trump tweeted about the protests early Sunday: “The large and violent French protests don’t take into account how badly the United States has been treated on Trade by the European Union or on fair and reasonable payments for our GREAT military protection. Both of these topics must be remedied soon.”
Macron, of course, has been trying to position himself as the European Union’s “anti-Trump,” suggesting in meetings earlier this month that France and other European countries were relying too heavily on an increasingly nationalist United States, and could just as easily pay for their own defense, outside of NATO agreements.