A driver forces a car through a group of protesters in Donges, western France, killing one, on 17 November 2018. Photo: Reuters

By James McAuley
17 November 2018

PARIS (The Washington Post) – The French president is under fire again, this time over rising fuel prices.

On Saturday, some 244,000 protesters, many clad in yellow vests, not only took to the streets, but in many places literally took the streets, according to the French Interior Ministry. The ministry said a network of drivers blocked roads at some 2,000 locations across the country, generating traffic backups for miles and causing one death.

A 63-year-old protester was killed in the eastern Savoie region when a driver panicked by demonstrators accidentally accelerated into the crowd, French media reported. In other incidents nationwide, 106 people were reported injured, five seriously.

The protesters’ chief complaint: the rising cost of diesel fuel. The recent price hike is a direct result of Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to curbing climate change, which included higher carbon taxes for 2018, the first full year of his term. But beyond the diesel issue, many turned out Saturday to voice any number of other frustrations with the so-called “president for the rich,” who is seen as increasingly removed from ordinary people’s concerns.

Tear gas is used to disperse fuel-price protesters in Paris, on 17 November 2018. Photo: EPA

Diesel, a fossil fuel, is known for the pollutants it emits into the air. Although it was traditionally taxed at the same rate as petrol, that is no longer the case: Taxes on diesel have risen by 6.2 percent per liter this year, as part of the government’s efforts to protect clean air. The problem is that diesel remains the most common fuel in France, leading many to view recent policies as an attack on working people more than an environmental safeguard.

The stirrings of the “yellow vest” campaign behind Saturday’s protest began this summer, with online petitions urging Macron to reconsider. But the loudest voice was that of Jacline Mouraud, a white-haired hypnotist and grandmother of three from Brittany who has become the star of the movement.

“I have two little words for Mr. Macron and his government,” she said, in a YouTube video that has garnered millions of views. “You have persecuted drivers since the day you took office. This will continue for how long?” [more]

France’s climate change commitments trigger rising diesel prices and street protests

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