Leaders of the so-called “Yellow Vest” movement have rejected demands to negotiate with the French government after President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister to hold discussions, according to AFP. Macron and top officials are now in full damage control mode amid the most violent protests France has seen since 1968.
Approximately 136,000 demonstrators donning yellow reflective vests were recorded across France on Saturday – of which approximately 5,500 protested in the French capital according to the interior ministry. The previous weekend saw 166,000 demonstrators, and 282,000 the week before that.
This is France right now. You’ve heard media rip Trump for having a mid 40’s approval rating yet they’ve celebrated Macron like he’s a beloved world leader when he has a 27% approval and his country is rioting. The media may love him but the people don’t. pic.twitter.com/xVqZNXlCQq
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) December 3, 2018
According to the interior ministry, 412 people were arrested in during Saturday’s violent clashes in the French capital, while 263 people were injured. The worst hit areas were the wealthy west and central Paris, where stores were smashed and looted, dozens of cars were burnt, and police forces were overwhelmed by Yellow Vest protesters.
Amid the chaos, an 80-year-old woman was killed in Marseille when a police tear-gas canister was launched into her apartment window while she was trying to close the shutters. She was taken to a nearby hospital but died during an operation after suffering shock, according to a local media report. She has become the third casualty in the demonstrations which began three weeks ago.
On Monday, Macron held an urgent security meeting – after which ministers said that while “no options have been ruled out,” they had not discussed a state of emergency as had been previously reported.
Conservative leader Marine Le Pen who attended the meeting warned that Macron could become the first French president to order troops to open fire on his own people in 50 years, and that he should abandon his plan to raise taxes on fuel while lowering gas and electricity prices.
The demonstrations, meanwhile, have had a noted effect on business in the region.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire met with business representatives to assess the damage caused to businesses over the weekend.
“The impact is severe and ongoing,” Mr Le Maire told the AFP news agency.
Some retailers had seen sales drop by around 20-40% during the demonstrations, while some restaurants had lost 20-50% of their takings, he added. –BBC
The protests have continued into Monday according to the BBC, which reports that about 50 Yellow Vest protesters blocked access to a major fuel depot in the port city of Fos-sur-Mer, which is close to Marseille – while gas stations across France have run out of fuel after restrictions on purchases were instated.
As if things weren’t bad enough for Macron, on Monday French private ambulance drivers staged further demonstrations against several healthcare and social security reforms which they say could affect their jobs.
Dozens of trucks formed a blockade from Paris’s Place de la Concorde to the French National Assembly.
One protester told the Reuters news agency: “[The reforms] will bludgeon us financially and destroy our companies. We’re going to have to fire people, that’s for sure.”
It is unclear if the ambulance drivers are part of the Yellow Vest movement – however recent polls have shown that most of France supports their cause.
Similiar protests have broken out around Europe, as Yellow Vest demonstrations have spread to Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.