On the evening of November 24th, more than 100,000 people took part in protests against high fuel prices in France.
They were largely peaceful, with the exception of Paris, where approximately 8,000 demonstrators gathered. The protest turned violent at the Champs Elysées when protesters attempted to pass a police cordon around sensitive sites.
About 5,000 protesters had converged on the avenue. Dozens of people were arrested after clashing with police. Organizers of the “yellow vest” movement claimed that the latest protests are “act two” in their campaign. Named after their distinctive high-visibility attire, the protesters oppose an increase in fuel duty on diesel. They accuse President Emmanuel Macron of abandoning “the little people.”
Five thousand policemen were deployed in the Paris area. They set up metal barriers around the Champs Élysées to stop protesters from reaching buildings such as the President’s office and the national assembly.
Most demonstrators insisted that they were peaceful. However, some tried to break through the police cordon. They lit fires, tore down street signs, erected barricades, pulled up paving stones and threw them at police while shouting slogans against President Emmanuel Macron. The chaos continued into late afternoon. But by the evening police had cleared most of the area.
According to officials, 19 people were injured, 4 of them were police officers.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner accused protesters of being influenced by the leader of the far-right National Rally party, “Today, the far right has mobilized,” Castaner told reporters. “The security forces perfectly anticipated this situation.”
“The right to protest cannot go beyond the respect of the fundamental law of our country,” he added.
Marine Le Pen. She, in turn, accused Castaner of slander and dishonesty on Twitter. She claimed that the accusations were a “pathetic and dishonest” form of “political manipulation” by the government.
Around France the other protests had little violence, in total 130 arrests were made and there were minor clashes between protesters and authorities.
The protests and violence were on a much smaller scale than on November 17th. Then, more than 280,000 people protested, more than 600 were injured and 2 people were killed.
There was also a protest against sexual violence and it was kept away from the massive protests against fuel prices. Similar protests took place across France, ahead of the UN’s day for the elimination of violence against women on November 25th.
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the violent protests that brought Central Paris to a halt.
“Thank you to all our law enforcement, for their courage and professionalism. Shame on all the people who assaulted them,” Macron tweeted. “Shame to those who voluntarily assaulted citizens and reporters. Shame on those who tried to intimidate our elected.”
A protest organizer labeled the events a “civil war.”
“The objective was to unite everybody here in Paris. I am disappointed because it wasn’t meant to be like this,” Thierry Paul Valette, one of the organizers, said.
Besides concerns over spiraling fuel prices, the protests also reflect long-running tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.
The general increase in fuel prices is caused by a leap in the wholesale price of crude oil. Protesters are, however, not aiming their anger at OPEC for reducing oil production, or at the Trump administration for enforcing unilateral sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. The anger is aimed at Macron, who is also extending many environmental policies which were implemented under his predecessor, François Hollande. Macron blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise. He also said more tax on fossil fuels was needed to fund renewable energy investments.