One protester has been killed as French citizens voice their anger over rising fuel taxes in the country. In addition to the fatality, some 227 protesters have been injured at various protest sites across France.
New protests have sprung up at the grassroots level and pose a new challenge to the beleaguered French President Emmanuel Macron. On November 17th the self-titled “yellow-jackets” protesters tried to force their way into the presidential Elysee Palace, forcing police to hurl tear gas canisters in a bid to disperse the protesters. The group had gathered along France’s famed Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris.
Later in the day protesters managed to enter the bottom of the street near the presidential palace but were once again forced back by security forces bearing shields. A similar protest also took place at the roundabout surrounding the Arc de Triomphe, where traffic was paralysed for hours by protesters.
French Interior Ministry officials said there were about 283,000 protesters, mostly peaceful, throughout the day. Protesters gathered at more than 2,000 sites, with some lighting bonfires or flying balloons.
While most of the protests were peaceful, some turned violent. In Troyes, to the southeast of Paris, about 100 people invaded the prefecture, which is the local representation of the state. The group damaged the building inside, said Interior Ministry officials in a statement. In Quimper in Britanny security forces resorted to using a water cannon to disperse hostile protesters.
The protester who died was a 63-year-old woman. She was killed when a driver caught in the blockade accelerated in a panic at Pont-de-Beauvoisin, near Chambery, in eastern France. The information was revealed by Louis Laugier, the top state official in the Savoie region. An investigation into the death has since been opened.
According to AP, the nationwide protest is unusual as it arose from within the citizenry, backed by neither unions nor politicians.
"They have sent a message," said Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, in response to the protests. "It is heard. The government is attentive to all demonstrations and, of course, we must continue to answer the expectations of the French, including those concerned about their purchasing power."