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  • 20,000 demonstrations were organized throughout France.

    20,000 demonstrations were organized throughout France. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 November 2018

Around 244,000 people organized street blocks across France to reject President Macron's rising fuel taxes.

One protester was killed and 106 were injured as over 240,000 French gathered on streets and highways across France to protest higher fuel taxes and President Emmanuel Macron's economic policies Saturday.

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More than 100 people were injured across the country,  five are in serious condition, and one woman was killed, according to the interior ministry.  

By midday, more than 2,000 rallies took place throughout France with more than 244,000 people mobilized, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

A 63-year-old woman was killed at a blockade in the southeastern department of Savoie. A driver allegedly panicked when protesters surrounded their car and accelerated, hitting and killing the demonstrator, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

Protesters, who call themselves the gilet jaunes or "yellow vests"  for the high-visibility vests they wear as a symbol of their movement, brought traffic to a standstill around the country, from highways, toll booths, and tunnel entrances --even stopping access to airports, such as in the city of Toulouse.

Protesters chanted "Macron, resign" and some sported slogans such as "give us back our purchasing power."

Hundreds of thousands came out to shut down roadways in protest Saturday | Source: Reuters

Approximately 106 people were injured, most of them wounded when motorists struck them with their vehicles as they attempted to force their way through the blockades. 

Castaner said 52 people have been arrested, 38 of whom were detained.  

Police said they used tear gas to clear the entrance to a tunnel under the Mont-Blanc mountain in the Alps.

The demonstrations were coordinated on social media in a backlash against rising fuel prices. The act of civil disobedience across France Saturday is the latest confrontation between Macron and dissatisfied voters who view the former investment banker as out of touch with ordinary people.

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"There are just too many taxes in France," said Veronique Lestrade, a demonstrator on the outskirts of Paris, who said her family was struggling to make ends meet.

The price of diesel has risen around 23 percent over the past 12 months to an average of US$1.70 per liter —its highest point since the early 2000s.

Macron's government says the transport policy has a long-term “ecological transition” goal, including promoting more environment-friendly vehicles.

“I prefer taxing fuel to taxing labor,” Macron said. “People complaining about rising fuel prices are the same ones who complain about pollution and how their children suffer.”

In 18 months in power, Macron has seen off trade unions and street demonstrations as he loosened labor laws and moved to privatize the heavily indebted state rail operator SNCF in a bid to reboot the economy.

Derided by political opponents as "the president of the rich" for measures such as the end of a wealth tax, Macron's popularity has dwindled to new lows of 21 percent.

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