French leader may unveil measures to address protests

Paris bore the brunt of the "yellow vest" demonstrations last Saturday, the fourth weekend of nationwide protests in France. Vehicles (above) and a news stand (below) were burnt.
Paris bore the brunt of the "yellow vest" demonstrations last Saturday, the fourth weekend of nationwide protests in France. Vehicles (above) and a news stand were burnt.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Paris bore the brunt of the "yellow vest" demonstrations last Saturday, the fourth weekend of nationwide protests in France. Vehicles (above) and a news stand (below) were burnt.
Paris bore the brunt of the "yellow vest" demonstrations last Saturday, the fourth weekend of nationwide protests in France. Vehicles and a news stand (above) were burnt.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

Macron considering getting firms to raise pay, give tax-incentivised bonuses, says paper

PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron plans to announce policies to appeal to the centre-left base in response to "yellow vest" protests, Le Monde reported, citing unnamed sources.

The President is discussing potential scenarios to reorient his programme within the limits of France's strained public finances, Le Monde said. He is considering pushing companies to raise salaries and give tax-incentivised bonuses, according to the paper.

The embattled President is expected to address the demonstrations in a much-anticipated speech in the coming days. He has mostly avoided the spotlight since returning from the G-20 Summit in Argentina.

Clashes broke out in several cities, including Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse, during a fourth weekend of nationwide protests against rising living costs and Mr Macron in general.

Yesterday, the interior ministry said more than 1,700 people were arrested across France. Police in Paris said they made 1,082 arrests last Saturday, up sharply from 412 in the previous round. The interior ministry said some 136,000 people took part in Saturday's protests, around the same number as on Dec 1. But it was Paris which again bore the brunt of the violence and destruction.

Protesters in the capital set fire to cars, burned barricades and smashed windows in pockets of violence, clad in their emblematic luminous safety jackets, as armoured vehicles rolled through the streets.

  • 1,700

  • Number of people who were arrested across France, according to the interior ministry.

    136k

    People who took part in Saturday's protests.

City authorities said the "yellow vests" had caused "much more damage" than on Dec 1.

"The sector concerned by the incidents was much larger... With fewer barricades, there was much more dispersion, so many more places were impacted by violence," Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told France Inter radio.

A huge clean-up operation was under way in Paris yesterday.

The government had vowed "zero tolerance" for anarchist, far-right or other troublemakers seeking to wreak further havoc at protests that have sparked the deepest crisis of Mr Macron's presidency.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe congratulated police for the operation and promised that Mr Macron would address the protesters' concerns. "The dialogue has begun and it must continue," he said. "The President will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue."

The authorities also launched an investigation into social media activity from accounts allegedly drumming up support for the protests, sources told Agence France-Presse.

 
 
 
 
 

According to Britain's Times newspaper, hundreds of online accounts linked to Russia were used to stoke the demonstrations.

Citing analysis by New Knowledge, a cyber security company, the Times said the accounts spread disinformation and used pictures of injured protesters from other events to enhance a narrative of brutality by the French authorities.

The French protests also attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump, who tweeted: "Very sad day & night in Paris. Maybe it's time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes?"

The demonstrations are not directly linked to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which Mr Trump has abandoned to the dismay of Mr Macron and other Western leaders.

People began blockading French roads on Nov 17 over rising fuel prices - partly due to taxes aimed at helping the country transition to a lower-carbon economy.

But the demonstrations have since swollen into a broad movement against Mr Macron, an ex-banker, whom the protesters accuse of favouring the rich.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'French leader may unveil measures to address protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe