France Yellow Vest protests

Khafee

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APRIL 25, 2019
France's Macron pledges to cut taxes in response to Yellow Vest protests
By Daniel Uria


French President Emmanuel Macron promised a series of reforms including tax cuts in an address responding to the Yellow Vest protests in the country. Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA

April 25 (UPI) -- French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to cut taxes and make other reforms Thursday in an address responding to the country's so-called Yellow Vest protests.

Addressing the nation in a news conference for the first time since he was elected in 2017, Macron said he would implement a "significant cut" in income tax and reintroduce inflation-linking for pensions worth less than $2,238 a month.

"It seems to me that if, in addition to all that's already been done, we manage to lower income tax by about $5.6 billion, it will be a significant gesture," he said.
Macron also announced plans to work toward a more decentralized government, extend proportional representation in elections and to abolish the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, a school that is responsible for producing many of France's heads of state, chief executives and other people of power.

The French president said he learned a lot from holding national debates with French citizens and local government leaders, but added he plans to hold steadfast to his pro-business agenda.

"Have we gone in the wrong direction? I don't think so," Macron said.
Thursday's address came in response to waves of protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, which derived its name from the road-safety vests worn by demonstrators.

The speech was originally set to take place April 15 but was postponed after the fire at Notre Dame cathedral.

Yellow Vest protesters held rallies on Saturday in reaction to millions of dollars that were donated to rebuild the cathedral.

The protests began in late 2018 in response to fuel tax hikes supported by Macron and eventually grew to outcries against issues such as the living standard, diminishing social welfare and others.

Macron rejected several of the group's requests, including allowing for referendums to pass laws and remove public officials, requiring election officials to include blank ballots in the vote count and reinstating a wealth tax he abolished upon taking office.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/04/25/Frances-Macron-pledges-to-cut-taxes-in-response-to-Yellow-Vest-protests/8711556229825/
 

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French opposition, unions unsatisfied with Macron's 'yellow vest' measures


French politicians and trade unions expressed dissatisfaction on Friday (April 26) over announcements made by French President Emmanuel Macron to quell the often-violent "yellow vest" movement that has been rocking the country for months.

Macron pledged on Thursday (April 25) to cut taxes and said the French would have to work longer as he outlined his response to the anti-government protests that broke out in November 2018.

He also said he wanted a significant cut in income taxes, financed by closing loopholes for some companies, and talked of a push to decentralise government, breaking away from the Paris-centric policy-making of the past.

The president of the French national assembly's Finance Commission, Eric Woerth, said the measures announced following the "Great Debate," a listening campaign spearheaded by Macron that lasted three months, led to "great expectations" but yielded insufficient results.

Laurent Berger, the head of the French trade union CFDT, echoed the dissatisfaction, saying Macron missed the mark by neglecting environmental issues in his speech.

French government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye stood firmly by the president's side, saying Macron had "listened to, understood and learned from the crisis we've been experiencing these past few months."

Parisians had mixed opinions on the announcements as the 24th weekend of "yellow vests" demonstrations are slated to take place on Saturday (April 27).
 

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May Day protests turn violent in Paris
By Danielle Haynes
May 1, 2019
A Black Blocs protester throws a projectile towards the glass windows of a bank during a demonstration of the French trade unions members and the Yellow Vest movement marking May Day in Paris on Wednesday. Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE

May 1 (UPI) -- May Day demonstrators and Paris police clashed Wednesday, resulting in injuries to 38 people and the arrests of 380, law enforcement said.

France's Ministry of the Interior said about 164,500 people demonstrated throughout the country, though the General Confederation of Labor, a national trade union center also known by the acronym CGT, said the figure was twice that. The government said there were about 28,000 demonstrators in Paris, but a media consortium said there were about 40,000.

This year's annual May Day protests were larger than last year's 143,000 government estimate, and included participants from France's Yellow Vest movement and the Black Blocs, a group of anarchists and anticapitalist vandals.

Police said some protesters broke store windows and threw projectiles at officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannons. Of the 38 people injured, 14 were police officers.

Paris deployed more than 7,400 officers throughout the city.

Philippe Martinez, general-secretary of the CGT, accused security forces of initiating violence toward member protesters, Radio France Internationale reported.

The BBC reported that most protests throughout the country appeared to be peaceful as they called for worker and immigrant rights. May Day occurred amid weeks of Yellow Vest protests, which call attention to the differences between France's wealthy and the working, middle class.

The Yellow Vest movement takes its name from the fluorescent road-safety garment that all French drivers are made to carry in their vehicles.

The protests, which started in late 2018, began with people from rural areas who protested fuel tax increases seen as a green tax supported by President Emmanuel Macron. The protests then morphed to represent a wide variety of complaints including the standard of living, shrinking social welfare benefits and other issues.

Macron conceded to some demands from the Yellow Vest movement last week, pledging to cut taxes and re-introducing inflation-linking for pensions worth less than $2,238 a month.

 

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Police suicides on the rise in France after nearly six months of yellow vest protests
The government has launched a hotline to offer more assistance
Colin Randall
May 4, 2019

French gendarmes run through smoke of tear gas, during a May Day demonstration when more than 7,400 police and gendarmes were deployed across Paris. AFP

French police have played a crucial but controversial role in six months of yellow-vest protests, drawing official acclaim but also a rising level of condemnation for alleged brutality.

The president Emmanuel Macron has warmly praised officers – out again in force in Paris and provincial cities and towns as Saturday’s 25th weekly protest took place – for working with courage and dedication in the face of relentless attack. He has even promised a special bonus.

But as demonstrations take their toll on morale, police and gendarmes – technically a branch of the armed services – have also been reviled by protesters as violent tools of an unyielding state.

Resources have been stretched to the limit in the struggle to control demonstrations that have sometimes degenerated into riots. Roughly 7,400 officers were on the streets of Paris for last Wednesday’s May Day protests.

Government figures suggested about 160,000 protesters took part in demonstrations around the country, 16,000 of them in the capital. A trade union claimed the true figure nationally was nearly twice as high but, at either end of the range, the demands on police are significant.

Officers complain of being overworked and demoralised to the extent of contemplating suicide.

Some succumb to the strains. In the four months since January, 33 police officers and gendarmes have taken their own lives. The total for the whole of last year was 68.

Motives differ from case to case, but many officers cite dealing with the yellow vest – or Gilets Jaunes – protests as a source of enormous stress.

Last month, at one of the protests that have blighted central Paris since the movement began last November, police were taunted with chants of “suicidez-vous” – kill yourselves – in a sign of the increasing ugliness of the confrontations.

Footage has surfaced of three separate instances of apparent police misconduct on May Day: a riot officer throwing a lump of paving back at protesters, a policeman repeatedly striking a demonstrator on the face and another thrusting his baton into a man’s trousers.

All are under investigation but claims and counter-claims have become a routine feature of the unrest.

When Gilet Jaunes and so-called “Black Bloc” anti-capitalist agitators were accused of trying to force their way into a Paris hospital’s intensive care unit during Wednesday’s protests, supporters insisted they were trying to escape a police charge and teargassing.

Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, is under pressure to resign after using the word “attack” to characterise the protesters' actions. He has since withdrawn the description but it remains to be seen whether the support pledged by Mr Macron’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, will be maintained.

Faced with what a commission of inquiry from the Senate, the upper house of France’s parliament, called a deep malaise among police, Mr Castaner, whose role in charge of security brings the nickname ‘France’s No 1 flic [cop]’, announced in April the formation of a dedicated team to prevent suicides.

He said its members would be on hand 24 hours a day to offer “an attentive ear” and help to any officer needing it.

France’s contentious 35-hour work week – which some support but others say is burdensome on businesses – has little practical meaning for the police’. Officers cannot refuse if events require them to be on duty and the demands on their services can make it impossible to take time off to compensate. Even getting paid for overtime is an issue.

Mr Castaner has admitted that the state owes €275 million (DH1.13bn) in police overtime going back “not recent months or even years but for decades”.

The impacts of the terrorist threat, as well as the mass demonstrations common in France, are among the causes and a parliamentary report put the figure for 2017 alone at €22m.

Mr Castaner said: “This is something I want to address but I cannot say that with the snap of my finger, I will find €275m.”

The offer of a bonus for police involved in the protests was made by Mr Macron last December after violent rioting around the renowned Parisian avenue, the Champs-Elysees. He gave no further details.

An investigation by the newspaper Liberation listed as factors contributing to the wave of suicides access to weapons, overwork and fatigue, a “law of silence” to deter complaints, low income and a “dehumanisation of the profession” that leads to officers feeling marginalised. Having to work “in proximity to death”, the effect of staggered duty rosters and pressure from superiors are also seen as fuelling disenchantment.

One officer quoted in the Senate report said he asked in vain for his “overwhelming” workload to be reduced. “I became ill,” he said. “I began to be reprimanded and sent on training courses during leave periods.”

Others lament the way social upheaval has turned them “from national heroes to enemies”, far distant from the image of one officer crying on another’s shoulder after terrorist attacks killed 130 people in Paris in November 2015.

The supposedly non-lethal “flash balls” – rubber bullets fired in response to violence – have allegedly led to one death and several serious injuries among Gilets Jaunes. Others have been badly hurt in police charges, though officers are routinely subjected to severe provocation.

Liberation quoted a member of the Compagnies Republicaines de Securite – a general reserve of the national police commonly involved in riot and crowd control – called “Frederic” (the name was changed) as saying: “When I tell people I belong to the CRS, many see me only as a guy who will batter protesters.”

 

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