Macron plans 'important announcements' after fourth week of protests

By Daniel Uria   |   Updated Dec. 9, 2018 at 12:34 PM
French President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with business leaders and trade unions and address the nation after thousands were arrested in a fourth week of protests. Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- More than 1,000 people were arrested during another weekend of protests in France, as President Emmanuel Macron plans to hold talks with business leaders and trade unions Monday.

France's Interior Ministry said 1,723 people were taken in for questioning, 1,220 were taken into custody and 135 were injured over the weekend as "gilets jaunes" or "yellow jacket" demonstrators took to the streets for a fourth weekend in protest of rising living costs, elimination of the "fortune tax" and a lack of government effort to address inequality, CNN reported.

Following the meetings Monday, Macron is expected deliver an address calling for national unity and urging the protesters to seek dialogue.

The protests began as a response to fuel tax increases, which Macron agreed to scrap three weeks ago, but later expanded to a broader criticism of Macron's government.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Macron would make "important announcements," which local media said could include raising the minimum wage and pensions and introducing a tax-free bonus for workers on low incomes, but he said the fixes wouldn't be simple.

"All the problems of the 'yellow vests' can't be settled by waving a magic wand," said Griveaux.

About 8,000 police officers were deployed on the streets of Paris with thens of thousands more sent out throughout the rest of the country.

On Saturday, police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters in clashes on the Champs-Elysees.

The ongoing protests have resulted in closures of public transportation systems and landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday that the protests have been an "economic disaster" for the country.

"It's a catastrophe for trade. It's a catastrophe for our economy," he said.

Tourism suffered as a result of the protests, with hotel bookings for Paris for Christmas and New Year's Day dropping 20 percent.

Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said damage to property this weekend was worse than the previous weeks.

"The protests spread over a much larger area, so many more places were hit," he said.

Le Maire pledged state and insurance companies would pay for repairs of damage done during the protests, and tax payments would be postponed for shops that were damaged and robbed during the riots.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also responded to tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump in which he appeared to support the protesters and criticizing the French government.

"We do not take part in domestic American politics and we want that to be reciprocated," Le Drian said.

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