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Macron vows to stand firm after violent fuel protests

Fuelling
anger:
Protesters
near a toll
on the A7
motorway
at Orange
in southeast
France
PICTURE: BORIS HORVAT/GETTY

EMMANUEL MACRON vowed yesterday to get tough on activists using protests against rising fuel taxes to damage businesses and clash with police.

Pressure is mounting on the French president who will today clarify his plans to force drivers away from fossil fuels with the tax increases.

The ‘Yellow Vest’ activists — named after the high-vis jackets drivers have to carry in their vehicles by law — clashed with police, blocking roads from Brittany to the Pyrenees for a second weekend.

On Saturday, police used tear gas to contain up to 5,000 protesters around the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Shop windows were smashed as demonstrators were chased through streets filled with smoke from flares. Police arrested 47 of them, although 20 were later released. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the cabinet had discussed ‘how to respect’ the anger directed at Mr Macron.

‘At the same time, we must be uncompromising in the face of those who want to do damage,’ he said, adding that images of the violence could damage France’s reputation and alarm foreign investors.

The protests are seen as a challenge to Mr Macron’s authority. Benjamin Cauchy, a protest leader in Toulouse, said in a TV interview that the movement was at a turning point and the next step would hinge on what Mr Macron had to say.

Two people have been killed and hundreds injured since the protests began on November 17.