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FRENCH police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters yesterday as neoliberal President Emmanuel Macron’s political crisis continues to deepen amid demonstrations described as “an economic catastrophe.”
More than 1,700 people were detained across France during the fourth weekend of protests against Mr Macron’s government with six top flight football matches postponed. More than 90,000 police were mobilised with armoured vehicles patrolling the streets of the capital.
Large protests took place in Paris and other major cities including Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Grenoble as the so-called gilets-jaunes – named after the yellow hi-vis jackets French motorists are required by law to keep in their cars – took to the streets once more.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the continued protests were causing an “economic catastrophe” for France and warned of a “crisis for democracy.”
The French government moved to take the sting out of the movement earlier this week after they agreed to pause and potentially scrap the fuel tax that had sparked public anger.
However spokesman for the yellow vests Benjamin Cauchy said the protests would continue demanding the resignation of Mr Macron and fresh elections.
“The French are not sparrows and don’t want the crumbs the government is giving them. They want the baguette,” he said.
Public support for the demands of the yellow vests remains high at 66 per cent and Mr Macron is feeling under pressure, his 18-month presidency marked by a series of strikes and protests over his neoliberal reform programme which includes sacking thousands of public-sector workers and privatisation of the state rail network to hit the EU’s 2020 deadline for introducing competition to rail networks.
The CGT union called a 48-hour general strike for its energy workers in solidarity with the yellow vests with the stoppage due to start on December 13.
The union has encouraged its members to join the protests and said it challenged “the choices of the Elysee and Matignon (the president and prime minister’s offices), which are increasing inequalities and no longer allow a large part of the population to live with dignity.”
Mr Macron has kept a low profile during the protests and is set to address the French public in the next few days.
It is understood that he is due to meet with trade unions and business leaders today in a bid to defuse the crisis.
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