What began as civil, if violent, protests in the street of Paris are morphing into something broader and more ominous: discontent spreading across the French landscape with the economic policies of the President Emmanuel Macron.
Last month’s protests against planned tax hikes on gas continued this weekend, weekend with growing anger in Paris, but also dangerous, anti-government demonstrations in other parts of the nation.
An estimated 10,000 “gilets jaunes” — the nickname for protestors who wear fluorescent yellow vests that all French motorists must keep in their cars — streamed into Paris on Saturday. Riot police beat back the protests in the nation’s capitol with stun grenades.
Meanwhile, police and protesters battled in other French cities, notably Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux, as some 125,000 demonstrators took to the streets around the nation, according Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and media reports. Altogether, police arrested over 1,000 people and 135 people were injured, including 17 police officers.
As tourist sites attempted to reopen on Sunday, observers and political analysts took note that Macron is under increasing pressure to quell the discontent.
The French president tweeted support for the police in his first comment on the disturbances, but a government official said Sunday that Macron would address the nation early this week in an effort to address the protesters demands related to high costs of living.
In an effort to quell the uproar, Macron agreed last week to abandon the gas tax increases which he had previously defended as necessary to help reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels. The gas tax sparked the earliest, yellow vest-protests.
But the president’s statement didn’t seem to have much effect toward staunching the outrage. Over the weekend, many protesters accused Macron of not listening to the people and several said his U-turn amounted to too little, too late.
“The government should do more, it should have reacted better,” Abdul Asis told NBC News. Asis, a 28-year-old construction worker, described himself as “100 percent behind the Yellow Jackets.”
Like Asis, the majority of the yellow vest demonstrators in Paris appeared to be working class white men from elsewhere in France, angry Macron and blame him for economic inequalities and stagnation.
Macron’s critics claim he supports wealthy and elite people with his policies that are trying to reform the French economy to harshly with regard of the middle-class and poor. According to a poll published last month by Le Figaro, almost eight in 10 people across France support the protests.
The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum reopened Sunday after closing due to Saturday’s rioting. Shops assessed the looting damage Sunday and cleared out broken glass, after shutting down on for a day at the height of the holiday shopping season.
“What happened yesterday and the Saturday before, it was unforgettable,” Jean-Pierre Duclos told The Associated Press. “It happened in a country like France that supposed to be sophisticated, it’s unbearable and it cannot be forgiven.”