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The yellow vests: Dozens block fuel depot as PM to meet with protesters

Around 1,000 students shouting “Macron resign!” demonstrated in the city of Nice today – some wearing high-vis jackets.

Image: Tesson/ANDBZ/ABACA

FRENCH PRIME MINISTER Edouard Philippe is meet with groups that took part in demonstrations in Paris over the weekend as other protesters block access to a major fuel depot.

Around 50 “yellow vest” demonstrators have blocked access the fuel depot in the port of Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille as well as several highways on the third week of anti-government protests which led to major riots in Paris at the weekend.

Police have repeatedly intervened to dislodge demonstrators at the depot since small-town and rural France erupted in protests over rising living costs on 17 November.

After cancelling a trip to Poland, Prime Minister Philippe met with his political rivals today and is set to hold talks with representatives of the “yellow vests” tomorrow. 

France Gas Price Protests Demonstrators open the toll gates on motorway near Biarritz, southwestern France. Source: AP/PA Images

Traffic was also backed up on highways leading to the southern cities of Aix-en-Provence, Orange, Montpellier, Nimes and Sete as the movement, which began over fuel tax increases but has morphed into a broader wave of resistance to Macron’s pro-business policies, rumbled on.

Today, the protests spread to around a hundred schools nationwide, which were partially or totally blocked by teenagers piggybacking on the demonstrations to air frustration over new university entrance requirements.

Around 1,000 students shouting “Macron resign!” – some clad in the high-visibility vests that have become the emblem of the movement – demonstrated in the city of Nice today, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

Union backing

The situation also remained tense on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, which has been one of the flashpoints of the protests.

Police fired tear gas to repel demonstrators around the island’s sole container port in the west, which has been blocked for 15 days, leading to shortages of imported wheat, medication and other necessities.

France’s biggest public sector union, the CGT, waded into the fray today, calling for a nationwide day of protest on 14 December to press for an “immediate” increase in the minimum wage, pensions and social benefits.

The “yellow vests” have no links to political parties or trade unions but the CGT, which brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets to protest Macron’s reform of the labour code last year, said it shared their “legitimate anger”.

Macron, a 40-year-old centrist, was elected in May 2017 on a pro-business platform that promised measures to incite companies to invest to create jobs.

Immediately after coming to power, he pushed through tax cuts for entrepreneurs and high-earners — policies that have become a lightning rod for anger among the so-called “gilets jaunes” or “yellow vests”.

Macron’s task now is also complicated by his own desire not to yield to France’s street protests, which in the past have repeatedly forced his predecessors into U-turns.

Jacline Mouraud, one of the protest movement’s prime instigators, told AFP that scrapping the fuel tax was a “prerequisite for any discussion” with the government.

© AFP 2018

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