PARIS (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas and turned water cannons on protesters in Paris who are angry at rising fuel costs and President Emmanuel Macron's economic policies, the second weekend of protests from "yellow jacket" throughout France.
Police officers launch tear gas during protests against rising fuel prices on the Champs-Elysee in Paris, France, on November 24, 2018. REUTERS / Benoit Tessier
At about 5,000 protesters had met on the Champs Elysees, where some clashed with the police to prevent them from reaching the president's Eliseo palace nearby.
The protesters sang the national anthem and waved French flags while others carried placards with slogans that read "Macron, resignation" and "Macron, thief".
Others were seen digging on cobblestones or building barricades while police confirmed the presence of several hardline groups on one of the city's best known streets.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has accused Marine Le Pen, a far-right leader, of fomenting protests.
"The far right is mobilized and is building barricades on the Champs Elysees, they are progressively neutralized and rejected by the police," he said.
In a message on Twitter, Le Pen said he questioned why no protest was authorized in the area. "Today Mr. Castaner is using this to target me, this is low and dishonest," he said.
The protesters are against taxes that Macron introduced last year on diesel and gasoline that are designed to encourage people to move to a more environmentally friendly transport. Next to the tax, the government offered incentives for the purchase of green or electric vehicles.
For more than a week, protesters wore fluorescent yellow jackets that all French motorists must have in their cars blocked motorways across the country with barricades and slow truck convoys, preventing access to fuel depots , shopping centers and some factories.
CHALLENGE FOR MACRON
The security forces were worried that far-right and far-right extremists could infiltrate the demonstrations, intensifying the challenges of crowd control.
About 3,000 police officers were recruited to work in Paris on Saturday, the city said, with security forces handling a rally against sex violence, a football match and a rugby match in the capital on the same day.
Last Saturday, when nearly 300,000 people took part in the first yellow jersey demonstrations across the country, retailers' daily revenue fell 35 percent, according to consumer groups.
Agitation is a dilemma for Macron that throws itself as a champion against climate change but has been mocked as out of touch with ordinary people and is fighting a decline in popularity.
Despite the demands of calm by the government, the yellow jacket protests have spread to the French territories abroad, including the island of the Indian Ocean of Reunion, where the cars were given to the flames.
The riots left two dead and 606 wounded in mainland France, the Interior Ministry said today.
While the movement, which has no leader, started as a reaction against rising fuel prices, it exploited a wider frustration in the sense of a squeeze of household spending power under the 18-month Macron government .
Since coming to power, Macron has witnessed union and street demonstrations against its changes to labor regulations and has overhauled the heavily indebted operator of the state railway. Foreign investors have largely acclaimed its pro-business administration.
But political enemies have dismissed him as "president of the rich" for putting an end to a tax on wealth, and voters appear to be restless, with the popularity of the 40-year-old president slumped to just 20%.