By Eileen AJ Connelly, nypost.com
In a scene straight out of “Les Miserables,” 5,000 angry demonstrators set fires and stormed barricades Saturday in Paris along the famed Champs-Elysees to protest president Emmanuel Macron and the rising gas taxes in France.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to try to contain the melee as demonstrators burned plywood, stomped on barriers and wielded signs reading “Death to Taxes.” They overturned one vehicle.
Smoke and flames mixed with holiday lights lining the boulevard to create a surreal scene, as one protester jumped on a pile of debris and waved a French flag, the Arc de Triomphe looming behind him.
Police said they arrested dozens, many for throwing objects during the demonstration. Officials said 19 people were hurt, including four police officers, and one victim who sustained serious injuries.
“It’s going to trigger a civil war and me, like most other citizens, we’re all ready,” said Benjamin Vrignaud, a 21-year-old protester from Chartres.
“They take everything from us. They steal everything from us,” said Laura Cordonnier, 21.
Saturday was the eighth day of protest across France, involving more than 81,000 demonstrators. Two people have been killed in the clashes.
Macron, whose popularity has dropped to a new low, is the focus of rage for the “yellow jacket” demonstrators. They accuse the pro-business president of elitism and indifference to the sufferings of ordinary citizens.
Anger is also welling over a hike in the diesel fuel tax, which is up roughly 30 U.S. cents per gallon. The gasoline tax is also set to rise. Gasoline in Paris now costs more than $7 a gallon, slightly more than diesel.
Macron maintains the taxes are needed to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy systems.
But while Macron’s government noted that Saturday’s demonstrations were smaller than the roughly 244,000 people who marched against the gas tax last week, far left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon explained to local television that the issue plays a large roll in the French mindset: “When tax is no longer agreed to, it’s the start of revolutions in France.”
Post Wire Services