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'Too little, too late': France's 'yellow vests' vow to push on with protests

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'Too little, too late': France's 'yellow vests' vow to push on with protests
Photo: AFP
16:59 CET+01:00
The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protesters in France have vowed to continue their protests despite the French government trying to calm their anger by suspending a planned hike in fuel taxes. That spells bad news for president Emmanuel Macron and the Paris police force.
Despite their efforts to appease the 'yellow vest' protesters after the violence seen across parts of France on Saturday, it seems France's leaders haven't done enough to stop a possible repeat performance this weekend. 
 
French PM Edouard Philippe announced on Tuesday three significant measures, including the freezing of the controversial fuel tax hikes, aimed at calming the anger and sparing Paris and other cities from more violence.
 
Many of the members of the protest group who have spoken out since the French PM unveiled the measures on Tuesday afternoon have said that they failed to meet their expectations and were not enough to stop further protests. 
 
The measures include a six-month suspension of the fuel tax hike, a freeze on regulated electricity and gas prices and stricter vehicle emission controls set to kick in in January 2019 will also be suspended, one of the demands of the "yellow vest" movement which erupted last month.
 
Centre-right politician Damien Abad described the measures as "too little, too late".
 
And prominent figures associated with the 'yellow vest' movement made it clear that the measures did not go far enough.  
 
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Photo: AFP

"This is not what we wanted," spokesperson for the 'yellow vests' Benjamin Cauchy told BFM TV. 

"We want the cancellation of the fuel tax hike. Let's not get caught up in politics, let's be clear," he said. "A moratorium is either a disguised political snub or a mockery of the French people and it means the tax coming back in six months."
 
Even the reactions from the more moderate gilets jaunes have been ones of disappointment. 
 
"It needed strong and visible measures. These are measures to play for time," Yves Garrec, a yellow vest from Toulouse told the French press. "I doubt that the movement will stop there."
 
And members of the protest group aren't only disappointed over the words spoken by the French Prime Minister on Tuesday. 
 
Spokespeople have said that they regret the fact that French President Emmanuel Macron has "not deigned to speak to his people" since his speech on ecological transition last week in which he unsuccessfully tried to extend an olive branch to the protesters. 
 
"Emmanuel Macron still has not deigned to speak to his people, one feels an unspeakable contempt for the president," said Laetitia Dewalle, spokesperson for the movement in the Val d'Oise department in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France. 
 
One group blocking a petrol depot in Le Mans, western France, said they would press on.
   
Marc Beaulaton, a retired 59-year-old nuclear safety worker, dismissed the government's offerings as "mini-measures".
   
"The government is trying to put us to sleep," said Lionel Rambeaux, a 41-year-old welder.
 
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Photo: AFP
   
The movement has swollen by amassing people who are angry at Macron for various reasons -- but this also makes it harder for protesters to agree on their aims.
 
"The dynamic of the movement is such that it's not certain the government's measures can stop it," said Jerome Sainte-Marie, head of the PollingVox polling agency.
   
"What's more likely is that these measures divide the movement."
   
Jerome Fourquet, an analyst at pollsters IFOP, predicted many protesters would suspect the government of trying to pacify them now only to bring back the taxes later.
   
"Significant as they are, these announcements come relatively late," he said.
   
"They may have had a different effect if they'd been announced a week ago." 
   
Emerging without leaders via social media, the "yellow vests" have tried to become more organised, nominating an eight-person delegation to negotiate with the government. 
   
But some members have refused to recognise the representatives chosen in a Facebook ballot, and the government has found it difficult to negotiate with the grassroots movement.
 
A group of moderate protesters had been due to meet with officials at Philippe's office on Monday but pulled out, saying they had received threats from "anarchist kids" for agreeing to the meeting.
 
And it looks likely that there will be another protest in the French capital this weekend, with 'yellow vests' saying that they are still planning to come to Paris this weekend for 'Acte IV' (Act 4) of the protests. 
 
"The anger has not subsided at all," said one of the main 'yellow vest' organisers Eric Drouet. "These measures have not convinced us. The only announcements we have had are suspensions or tax freezes."
 
Drouet also denounced the government's delayed reaction.
 
"The government is far behind what is happening on the ground. It is not possible to wait so long before reacting.
 
However it wasn't all bad news for the government some protesters signalled they were satisfied with the government climbdown, including a group who said they would lift their blockade of a petrol depot in Brest, in Brittany. 
 
Although that is unlikely to come as much of a comfort if Paris turns into a war zone once again this weekend. 
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Boggy - 05 Dec 2018 07:48
The gilets jaunes will slowly start cutting their own throats when fuel starts to be rationed.
Peter Smith - 05 Dec 2018 14:21
When we replaced our car, 4 1/2 years ago, it was with a heavy heart that we bought our first-ever diesel because the only petrol engine offered wasn't powerful enough for the car (this has since changed). We don't like the noise nor, in particular, the filth, and never want to be responsible for more cases of asthma. So we always buy the high-grade diesel (e.g. Total Excellium) and the difference in emissions is enormous. So why doesn't the government, as an interim measure, insist on supplying only high-grade diesel. Yes, it costs more, and is not as easily available, but if all diesel on sale was upgraded, there would be far less pollution (the black particles we hose off our terrace twice a year are impressive, in a negative sense) and all fuel outlets would stock it, so no expensive conversion of, or addition to, diesel storage tanks, so, presumably, cheaper, comparatively, than now. We, like most people, can't afford to change to a fossil-free car just like that, and this seems to be an acceptable interim measure, but no one suggests it.
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