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FRENCH left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melenchon called for President Emmanuel Macron to resign and call a general election today, branding the anti-government protests sweeping the country a “revolution.”
One person died after being hit by a car and police said they made more than 300 arrests during Saturday’s protests in Paris and elsewhere.
Calls for Mr Macron to resign are growing as more sectors of French society join the demonstrations, which were prompted by the introduction of an environmental tax causing a rise in fuel prices.
While the far right sought to exploit the popular anger in the initial stages of the action, Saturday’s protests saw trade unions join the so-called gilet-jaunes (yellow vests, named after the high-visibility jackets French motorists are required to carry in their vehicles).
Mr Melenchon, who leads La France Insoumise, advised Mr Macron to listen to the people and “have a quiet and peaceful exit.”
“Mr Macron wrote a book called Revolution. It was prophetic because that’s what he managed to trigger — but not the one he believed.
“It is not a liberal revolution that we have before us, it is a popular revolution, a citizen revolution,” Mr Melenchon said.
Barricades were set up across Paris with thousands of riot police deployed as protesters blocked shopping malls, fuel depots and factories. In a symbolic moment, demonstrators scaled and took control of the Arc de Triomphe.
Commentators have compared the unrest to the events of 1968, when a series of general strikes and occupations of universities and factories lasting almost two months came close to bringing down the De Gaulle government.
Mr Macron has branded the protesters “thugs” and refuses to back down, insisting that his tax rises are the right course of action.
He called an emergency meeting to discuss the escalating unrest and was considering imposing a state of emergency.
Mr Melenchon warned that the country was at a stalemate with no sign of either the government or protesters backing down.
“Nobody wants to give in, neither people in the street nor the government. Both have a legitimacy, we must admit it, so we have almost a phenomenon of double power,” he said.
Calling for Mr Macron to stand down and call fresh elections he said: “In this case, when you are in a democratic country, you vote. So we dissolve [the national assembly].”
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