Paris, Nov 18 (IANS) French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Sunday said more than 400 protestors had been injured countrywide as people gridlocked motorways and tunnel entrances across French cities to oppose an increase on fuel tax.
A total of 409 people were injured in Saturday’s demonstrations, including 14 seriously, as drivers not taking part in the protest action tried to get around the blockades, Castaner told RTL radio, reports Xinhua news agency.
“There have also been fights between ‘Yellow Vests’ protesters. There was an abuse of alcohol in some places, and that has provoked idiotic behaviours that can lead to violence,” he said.
“We are in very tense situation that required full mobilization of security forces.”
Twenty-eight police officers, gendarmes and firefighters were also wounded, according to Castaner who estimated 287,710 people took part in Saturday’s action.
On Saturday night, 73 people were arrested, bringing the total number of detainees to 282. More than half had been taken into custody.
At a blockade on a road in Savoie, southeastern France, a driver panicked when protesters surrounded her car and began banging on the roof. She accelerated and rammed into the crowd, hit a female protestor who succumbed to her injuries.
Dubbed “Yellow Vests” movement, referring to the high visibility vests drivers keep in their cars, the latest anti-Macron action, was created on social media after several groups called for blockades and go-slow operations across French cities to oppose the planned fuel tax and the rise in diesel’s price, the most commonly used car fuel in France.
“I hear and l totally respect the right to protest… It’s my duty as Interior Minister to allow those who want to demonstrate to do so while respecting law. But they cannot prevent people from circulating,” Castaner said.
He said 150 protests were reported in many regions in the second day of the movement.
In late 2017, the National Assembly, where Macron enjoys a large majority, approved an energy bill aimed at rising domestic carbon tax to 39 euros this year, 47.5 euros in 2019 and 100 euros by 2030 as part of energy transition.
These higher taxes started biting and ignited social roar as oil prices surged in recent months.
Standing firm on the fuel tax hikes, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe earlier this week announced a plan worth 500 million euros to help motorists with the lowest incomes, in a move to appease angry public and silent critics.
However, the government’s financial aid fell short to tread water on people’s disenchantment as ‘Yellow Vests’ supporters have already been coordinating on social media to stage more nationwide blockades in December that may paralyze the eurozone’s second power and one of world’s top tourism destinations during Christmas festivities.