A demonstrator stands in front of a makeshift barricade set up by the so-called yellow jackets to block the entrance of a fuel depot in Le Mans, western France, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2018, with banner reading “Stop the Government racket”. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

France bracing for more protests despite retreat on taxes

French government’s decision to suspend fuel tax and utility hikes Tuesday did little to appease protesters.

The concessions made by French president Emmanuel Macron’s government in a bid to stop the huge and violent anti-government demonstrations seemed on Wednesday to have failed to convince protesters, with trade unions and disgruntled farmers now threatening to join the fray.

A day after prime minister Edouard Philippe announced a suspension of planned fuel tax hikes that kicked off protests, the burgeoning “yellow vest” protest movement showed no sign of slowing down. Students opposed to a university application system remained mobilized, trucking unions called for a rolling strike and France’s largest farm union threatened to launch protests next week.

Trade unions have not played a role in the co-ordination of the improvised movement so far but are now trying to take advantage of the growing anger among the public. A joint statement from the CGT and FO trucking unions protesting a cut to overtime rates called for action from Sunday night and asked for an urgent meeting with Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne.

Although most of the fuel depots blocked by protesters have now been cleared, fuel shortages continued to hit several parts of France on Wednesday, with hundreds of petrol stations affected.

Wearing their signature yellow vests, demonstrators were back at toll booths on Wednesday to express their demands, ranging from income and pension rises to the dissolution of the national assembly.

“Of course I can understand their claims, they are legitimate,” said Thomas Tricottet, a protester at Tolbiac university in downtown Paris, where students took over the building and classes were cancelled.

“We need taxes, but they are not properly redistributed,” he told BFMTV station. “We obviously need to fight against this.”

Meanwhile, high school students union FIDL called for a “massive and general mobilization” on Thursday and urged Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer to step down.

Read more: Trudeau avoids confrontation with Saudi crown prince, Putin during G20 summit

Read more: DJ sorry after asking first woman to win prestigious Ballon D’Or to twerk

Put on the back foot, Philippe’s government opened the door for more concessions as spokesman Benjamin Griveaux did not exclude bringing back a wealth tax that was slashed soon after president Emmanuel Macron came to power in May 2017.

“If something isn’t working, we’re not dumb, we’ll change it,” Griveaux told RTL radio, adding however that “the issue is not on the table for now.”

Macron’s popularity has slumped to new lows since the first “yellow vest” demonstrations took place on Nov. 17. The former investment banker, who was elected after campaigning for deep pro-business economic reforms, is accused of being the “president for the rich” and of being estranged from the working classes.

Since returning from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron has either remained in his palace residence or else shied away from speaking publicly about the protests that have created his biggest political crisis since taking office last May. On Tuesday night, he was booed and jeered as he travelled to a regional government headquarters that was torched by protesters last weekend.

By caving in to yellow vests’ demands on fuel taxes, Macron also lost credibility in the fight against climate change after leading the way with an aggressive environmental agenda and promising to drastically cut carbon emissions. U.S. President Donald Trump said Macron’s decision to delay the tax hikes justified his own decision to withdraw from an international climate accord.

“I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “The Paris Agreement is fatally flawed because it raises the price of energy for responsible countries while whitewashing some of the worst polluters…”

Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Coastal GasLink receives first delivery of pipe sections

Company expects to begin welding and pipe laying in 2020

Northwest B.C. physician receives Medal of Good Citizenship Award

Dr. Peter Newbery was one of 18 people in B.C. to get provincial recognition

Northern Society for Domestic Peace remembers women killed in Montreal Massacre 30 years ago

Society will hand out 14 red roses, one for each of the victims, to women who stop by office today

Petition calls for appeal of Luke Strimbold’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says the former Burns Lake mayor’s case is under review

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

Nearly 80% of the domestic violence victims who reported to police last year were women

Most Read