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French protester run over, killed during anti-fuel tax blockade

By Allen Cone
French protester run over, killed during anti-fuel tax blockade
People wearing yellow vests gather in Antibes, southern France, as they try to block roads and cause traffic chaos as part of a nationwide protest against fuel taxes. One female protester was killed when she was run over by a car in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, in the southeastern Savoie region. Photo by Sebastien Nogier/EPA

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A female French protester was run over by a car and died during a rally against rising fuel prices Saturday, an official said.

In Pont-de-Beauvoisin in the southeastern Savoie region, a female driver was taking one of her children to the doctor when she was stopped by demonstrators wearing yellow vests around 8 a.m., Louis Laugier, the local prefect said at a news conference. After talking to them, she tried to move on a side road and protesters banged on her car.

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"It appears the woman panicked, accelerated and ran over a person who later died," Laugier said.

The 63-year-old woman pedestrian was killed and the driver was arrested.

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"That's the reason why we were worried to have people not experienced organizing protests," French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.

In about 2,000 demonstrations, about 244,000 people participated.

Besides the fatality, another 106 people have been injured and 38 have been placed in custody, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

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More than 1 million people were expected to protest in the grassroots movement called gilets jaunes, named after the neon yellow vests French motorists must keep in their vehicles, formed after President Emmanuel Macron raised fuel taxes.

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"Honestly we're satisfied, even if it's true we are not hundreds of thousands people here, but still, people have come," Thierry Paul Valette, who helped organize a protest on the Champs Elysées in Paris, told CNN. "We can't stand Macron's taxes any more, it's too much. We couldn't make ourselves heard through political parties or trade unions, so we had to do something."

On the Champs-Élysées in Paris, protesters chanted "Macron resign" while they walked slowly back and forth over pedestrian crossings.

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The government said the taxes are intended to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels. Financial incentives are aimed to persuade motorists to swap older, polluting vehicles for newer, cleaner models.

This year, diesel prices have surged 16 percent to an average $1.69, France's oil industry federation.

Brent crude oil, the benchmark for worldwide oil purchases, increased by more than 20 percent in the first half of 2018 to a peak of $86.07 in early October.

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