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  • A protester wearing a yellow vest, the symbol of a French drivers

    A protester wearing a yellow vest, the symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel fuel prices, holds a flag near burning debris at the approach to the A2 Paris-Brussels Motorway, in Fontaine-Notre-Dame, France, December 4, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 December 2018

At least 27 students were arrested during the clashes with the police.

At least three high-school students were seriously injured according to media reports on Wednesday by flash balls fired by the French police, as dozens of high schools across France and two Parisian universities have joined the yellow vest protests in recent days.

 France: Macron's Steps 'Too Little Too Late' For 'Yellow Vests'

The confrontations came as the French parliament was debating Wednesday a tax reform proposals which the government hopes will bring an end to the "yellow vests" protest movement sweeping the country.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe addressed the chamber hoping to sell the measures including a suspension of planned increases to fuel taxes for at least six months in response to weeks of sometimes violent protests.

The move marks the first major U-turn by President Emmanuel Macron's administration in 18 months in office. His government indicated earlier that it could also amend a wealth tax that Macron shrank last year to cover only real estate assets, earning him criticism as the "president of the rich."

While the "yellow vest" movement was mostly peaceful to begin with, the past two weekends have seen outpourings of violence and rioting in Paris, with extreme far-right joining the demos. Police fear new incidents on Saturday in the French capital.

Nearly seven out of eight people told pollsters that the measures did not satisfy the movement's demands, according to an Elabe survey for BFM TV. The poll also found that although 82 percent were against the violence seen last Saturday, 72 percent supported the "gilets jaunes" movement.

On Wednesday, the French agribusiness main union said that it will stage a series of protests next week. "No specific day has been set, it's for the week," the head of the main agricultural union Christiane Lambert told AFP.

She said the farmers were not officially joining the "yellow vests," a grassroots uprising which has shunned alignments with political parties or labor unions. "They want an apolitical movement, without unions, and I respect that," she said, accusing the government of "agri-bashing" by imposing new regulations such as requiring farmers to declare when they use glyphosate, a weedkiller suspected by scientists and the World Health Organization of causing cancer.

Many are also worried after Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Wednesday that measures aimed at improving their negotiating power with distributors would be delayed as the government grapples with the "yellow vest" movement. The measures aim to prevent distributors and retailers from selling at a loss and limit price wars that farmers say are squeezing their margins to the limit.

They were supposed to be approved at a cabinet meeting Wednesday and come into effect on January 1. But they may now be delayed until later in the month or February, Guillaume said. "It's delayed, but there must not be any retreat by the government," Lambert said. "The important thing is that it can be applied as of January 1," she said.

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