彩神app下载appNews Analysis: French gov't, "Yellow Vest" protesters lock horns, no sign of abating

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"Yellow Vests" protesters gather in Paris, France, on Dec. 1, 2018. French police detained at least 107 people on Saturday after a demonstration against higher diesel tax and poor revenue turned violent in Paris where people clashed with police, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said. (Xinhua/Li Genxing)

PARIS, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of French people on Saturday took part in a fresh round of country-wide demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron's fiscal and economic roadmap.

In Paris, the protest turned violent as a group of masked individuals violently clashed with anti-riot police that used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd who thew projectiles at them.

Several hundreds of yellow vests sat down under the Arc de Triomphe, an emblematic monument which reminders French soldiers' sacrifice and the country's different victories since it was first inaugurated in 1836.

Near the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, they sang the French national anthem, and chanted "Macron Resign!"

"The yellow vests will triumph," they scrawled on the arch's facade.

"We hear worries, and things are done and concrete answers were presented by the Prime Minister (Edouard Philippe)," Benjamin Griveaux, the government spokesman, told BFMTV news channel.

"We will not change the course. We need to maintain it, but we change the way," he said, however, calling on the "Yellow Vests" to participate in three-month consultation launched to implement the government's ecology strategy without triggering a "social alarm."

For weeks, Macron's executive team has been hitting airwaves to express sympathy with "Yellow Vests" protest movement, inviting them to join the same table of dialogue to dig for common device to calm the social roar.

They, however, stood firm on the fuel tax hikes which they say are needed to help promote a switch to cleaner energy, in a sign that the end of the showdown may not be near.

Earlier this week, Philippe proposed a meeting with eight representatives of the movement chosen in a Facebook ballot to discuss possible alternative to put an end to the social action and blockades. Unimpressed, they boycotted the meeting after he refused to broadcast live the talks in media.

Taking their name from the high visibility vests drivers keep in their cars, the "Yellow Vests" was created on social media, after several groups have called for blockades and go-slow operations across the country to oppose higher fuel tax and the rise in diesel's price, the most commonly used car fuel in France.

For more than two weeks, protesters have blocked highways in many regions, obstructed access to fuel depots, shopping centers and some factories.

In a show of humility, Macron said understanding "the fears of the French living outside of France's big cities."

"I refuse to set up a two-speed France where the most modest will have to pay more. I refuse that the ecological transition accentuates the inequality between the territories. This is basically the fear expressed by many of our fellow citizens in recent days -- to be left behind," he said while he presented his roadmap of energy transition earlier this week.

In a further move to soften the tax blow, the president proposed to review the rate of tax on diesel and petrol every three months to take into account changes in global prices.

His government had already announced a plan worth 5000 million euros (566 million U.S. dollars) mainly to double a 2,000 euro bonus granted to motorists on low incomes who change old-model cars for cleaner ones.

But the government's initiative to dampen public anger doomed by failure of lack of concrete answers to protesters' claims to remove tax fuel and increase wages.

On Saturday afternoon, 36,5000 people took part in demonstrations across France, including 5,5000 in the French capital alone, compared to some 106,500 protesters numbered the same time last Saturday.

A recent Odoxa survey found 84 percent of respondents support the movement, up by seven percentage points from last week.

With a broad public support, the "Yellow Vest" protest likely to be a dangerous challenge for the French president that could cloud his stay at the Elysee Palace.

In case he would bow to streets pressure, Macron would lose the challenge to transform the country as he pledged for 18 months ago.

And, if he would stare down social action and increase fuel tax in January as scheduled, he would lost support of popular voters in rural regions, that may harden his struggle to shake off the portrayal of a president that he is out of touch.

Last month, Macron saw his public support tumbling to a new low -- at 26 percent of positive opinions, a BVA poll showed.

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