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French Fuel Tax Protests Grow in Numbers, Violence

Yellow Vests march behind a banner reading "Yellow vests are angry" as they protest high fuel prices in Rochefort, southwestern France, Nov. 24, 2018, part of a movement which has spread into a widespread protest against stagnant spending power.

French police clashed with demonstrators across the country for an eighth straight day Saturday as thousands protested rising fuel costs.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said more than 100,000 protesters took to the streets nationwide, with 8,000 on the famed Champ-Elysees boulevard of Paris. There were 130 arrests across the country.

Paris police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters who had built barricades and torn down traffic lights and street signs, evoking scenes reminiscent of the city’s 1968 civil unrest.

“Shame on those who attacked (police),” French President Emmanuel Macron posted on Twitter. “Shame on those who were violent against other citizens. … No place for this violence in the Republic.”

The French news agency AFP reports that some protesters commandeered highway toll booths, either allowing free passage or creating “go-slow” vehicle processions. The tactic was meant to bring attention to the demonstrators’ core complaint of escalating taxes on car fuel, especially diesel.

The diesel fuel tax has gone up nearly 8 cents per liter, and Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne says it will continue to climb in the coming years. The gasoline tax is set to rise, too. Gasoline currently costs $1.85 a liter, slightly more than diesel.

Macron insists the fuel taxes are needed to reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels and to fund renewable energy investments. Next week, the president is scheduled to reveal new plans to make the “energy transition” easier.