Workers in Paris again cleared streets of broken glass and towed away burnt-out cars on Sunday after yet another violent protest and the government announced that President Emmanuel Macron was preparing to address the nation early in the coming week.
On Saturday, anti-government protesters wrecked havoc in the city for the fourth Saturday in a row, hurling projectiles, torching cars and vandalising shops and restaurants.
Across the city, bank branch offices, toy shops, opticians and other retail outlets had boarded up storefronts smashed by protesters and walls and windows were covered in anti-Macron slogans.
“You won’t make it past Christmas, Emmanuel,” read the graffiti on a boarded-up shop near the Champs Elysees boulevard.
Macron is facing mounting criticism for not speaking in public in more than a week as violence worsened.
“This chaos has to end,” said Andre Juillard, a doctor, as he stood in line with other weary Parisians at a bakery near the Eiffel Tower, which reopened along with other monuments and museums after closing for security reasons on Saturday. Gregory Caray, owner of two furniture shops in the heart of Paris, said he was relieved to see that his shop had not been vandalised, but the protective wooden boards over its windows were plastered with graffiti.
“EVERYTHING IS BROKEN”
“You can understand the yellow vests movement. But this is completely unacceptable. It has been three weekends in a row now. Look around you, everything is broken, damaged. All the shops had to close and spend money to shut everything up, and it happens every week,” he told Reuters.
Named after the fluorescent safety vests that French motorists must carry, the “yellow vest” protests erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, when nearly 300,000 demonstrators nationwide took to the streets to denounce high living costs and Macron’s liberal economic reforms.
The government this week canceled a planned rise in taxes on petrol and diesel in a bid to defuse the situation but the protests have morphed into a broader anti-Macron rebellion.
“I don’t know if Macron’s resignation is necessary, but he must completely change course and increase wages and lower taxes,” said Bertrand Cruzatier as he watched cleaners scrub out anti-Macron grafitti at Place de la Republique.
In the centre of the square, a banner hanging from the bronze statue of Marianne, symbol of the French republic, read: “Give back the money”.
Macron’s last major address to the nation was on Nov 27, when he said he would not be bounced into changing policy by “thugs”, but following last week’s riots, the government offered a string of concessions to try and soothe public anger, scrapping planned fuel hikes planned and freezing energy prices.
“The President of the Republic will … make important announcements,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on LCI television on Sunday. He gave no other details about the timing, content or format of the speech.
“However, not all the problems of the ‘yellow vest’ protesters will be solved by waving a magic wand,” he said.
Yellow vest protesters demand lower taxes, higher minimum wages and better pension benefits. But, mindful of France’s deficit and not wanting to flout EU rules, Macron has scant wriggle room for more concessions.