Tens of thousands of people across France have protested against high fuel prices, in mass rallies that turned violent when clashes erupted in parts of the country and a protester was accidentally run over and killed by a car.
An estimated 240,000 people gathered on Saturday at 2,000 locations, blocking roundabouts and motorway exits as part of what has been dubbed the “yellow vests” protest.
The movement, named for the high-visibility jackets worn by protesters, erupted on social media last month with calls for mass blockades of roads and highways.
Protesters blame a 20-percent rise in diesel prices in the last year on the so-called “green taxes” under President Emmanuel Macron.
At Pont-de-Beauvoisin, in southeast France, a woman trying to get her daughter to the doctor panicked when protesters surrounded her car and started banging on the roof. She accidentally struck and killed a woman in her 60s, the interior ministry said.
In Paris, protesters holding “Macron resign!” signs and singing the national anthem partially blocked the Champs Elysees in the heart of the French capital.
|A group of protesters blocking a motorway in Antibes [Eric Gaillard/Reuters]
Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from Paris, said violent clashes broke out between the police and protesters, during which the security forces used tear gas.
At least 47 people were injured during the clashes, three of them seriously, police said.
About 227 people were injured – seven seriously – and 117 detained, with 73 then taken into police custody.
Among those injured was a police officer in the southern town of Grasse.
“The protesters were united in two things: the first was the symbol of their protest, the yellow vest they were wearing, and the second was that they were angry and frustrated at the president in the hike of petrol and diesel,” Barker said.
He added that the protesters were demanding that big businesses and industries should be the ones to bear the burden of the green taxes imposed by the government, and not ordinary drivers.
Anger over the high fuel prices has resulted in Macron’s popularity taking a hit over the recent months – from 39 percent in July to 21 percent in October.
According to an opinion poll last week, 73 percent of respondents backed the “yellow vests” movement, a much higher figure than in other protests since Macron was elected on a reformist platform last year.
Protesters say he is neglecting the lower and middle classes, pointing to tax cuts he has pushed through for high earners and companies.
Last week, the French government announced a series of measures to try and quell the anger over fuel prices, including energy subsidies and higher bonuses towards cleaner vehicles.
In a TV interview this week, Macron admitted he had “not succeeded in reconciling the French with their leaders” and that “we have probably not given them enough consideration”.