This past Saturday, massive crowds descended on the Champs Elysees in Paris to protest high fuel prices in France and President Emmanuel Macron’s fuel tax. The protesters were stopped by police before they could reach the Elysee Palace. The protesters, angry with the high price of fuel in the French Republic and agitating against the President’s tax proposal from last year that would raise the country’s gas tax by the equivalent of 30 cents per gallon, clashed with police for much of the weekend. The tax that sparked the unrest is set to rise over the next few years, while the price of gas in Paris is already at 1.64 euros a liter, or, $7.06 a gallon.
Police detained dozens of protesters for throwing projectiles, and other disruptive acts. When it was all over, the protests left two dead and over 600 injured. An estimated 106,000 protesters took part nationwide in the event, which left Paris strewn with burned-out scooters and flanked by a smoldering Champs Elysees.
By way of AP News, there is a deep-seated anger and resentment at the government lying behind the unrest. One French citizen, a 21-year-old protester from Chartres named Benjamin Vrignaud, when interviewed about the government’s policies said, “It’s going to trigger a civil war and me, like most other citizens, we’re all ready.” Another, Laura Cordonnier, was quoted as saying “They take everything from us. They steal everything from us.”
For his part, French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to stand against the “thugs” who carried out the protests. In a speech following the protests, Macron said he did not “confuse citizens and their demands with thugs,” and pledged, “I will not concede anything to those who want destruction and disorder.”
The protests come at a point in the Macron administration where only 26% of respondents to a recent poll have a favorable view of the president. France’s economic outlook has become slightly more bearish recently, as a recent National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies report showed consumer confidence dropping three points to its lowest level in three years.
Real economic growth has yet to slow in France — with experts saying that the gas tax has had a 0.1% affect on growth, at most. However, adding higher fuel prices to the already combustible mix, a 9.1% overall unemployment rate and youth unemployment rate that has hovered between 20% and 25% for much of the latter part of the recovery from the Great Recession, was sure to engender a powerful reaction. Anywhere between one-in-four and one-in-five young people in France are unemployed, after adding a 30% increase in fuel prices to that dower picture, it is of little surprise that the two French youth interviewed by the AP had such an apocalyptic response to the government’s policies.