France’s President Macron condemns ‘extreme violence’ after latest yellow vest protest
- First protest of the new year shows anger among French people remains, despite government scrapping ‘green’ fuel tax and other measures
French President Emmanuel Macron promised on Saturday that justice “will be done” after the first “yellow vest” protests of the new year were again marked by violent clashes in Paris.
About 50,000 protesters took to the streets across France, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.
The turnout seemed a revival for the protests after declining numbers in the last weeks of 2019.
Few turned out over Christmas and the new year. Macron had offered a package of tax cuts and pay bonuses to appease protesters demanding improved living standards and an end to a “green” fuel tax.
For Macron’s government, it was the scenes of violence that marked the day, as protesters clashed with police on the Seine riverside and a pedestrian bridge.
— Clément Lanot (@ClementLanot) 5 January 2019
The small Line News agency got more than 1.7 million Twitter views for footage showing a man – apparently a boxer – taking on riot police with his bare hands and, along with other protesters forcing them back on the bridge.
A figure wearing the same clothing can be seen in another clip apparently kicking a policeman who had fallen to the ground.
A police trade union said on Twitter that the man had been identified, and described it as a “cowardly and intolerable attack”.
But radical leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has backed the protest movement that initially sought – with success – the cancellation of planned fuel tax rises, took a different view.
“Hand-to-hand combat on the bridges of Paris,” Melenchon said on Twitter. “Are the authorities who give such orders republicans?”
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said he had to leave his office after the gate of his ministry’s building was forced open by people who stole a forklift truck from the street outside.
“Once again an extreme violence has attacked the republic – its guardians, its representatives, its symbols,” Macron wrote on Twitter. “Justice will be done.”
Macron has promised a national debate on the wide range of issues raised by the movement, including taxation, the cost of living, democracy and public services.
“Everyone must regain self-control to bring about debate and dialogue,” he said.