French president Emmanuel Macron delayed Tuesday a previously planned fuel-tax increase in response to violent public demonstrations that shook Paris on Saturday.
The protesters — who refer to themselves as “gilets jaunes,” or “yellow jackets,” to denote the high-visibility vests that all French drivers are required to keep in their cars — burned storefronts and vehicles across Paris on Saturday to protest Macron’s environmental policies.
“No tax is worth threatening the unity of the nation,” Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said Tuesday while announcing that the fuel-tax increase, which was set to take effect January 1, will be delayed for six months.
The movement began in mid-November as working-class motorists from rural areas flooded Paris to protest the tax increase, which would increase the price of fuel by a few cents per gallon. Those initial anti-tax demonstrations have since expanded into a broader, populist expression of anti-government sentiment by middle-class French citizens who believe Macron, a former investment banker, has catered to the rich since taking office.
“It’s a small victory because he is finally backing down,” protester David Roig, a 29-year old Paris taxi driver told the Wall Street Journal. “But what we want isn’t a delay. It’s the cancellation of the planned tax increase.”
While the gilets jaunes have no official leadership, a number of prominent members planned to meet with Phillipe this week to discuss their demands but were forced to cancel in response to threats from the movement’s more extreme elements.
Phillipe invited the public on Tuesday to participate in a six-month “consultation” period, during which time the administration will halt any increases in the price of electricity and natural gas.
“The government has made proposals. Let’s talk about it. Let’s improve them, complete them. I am ready for it,” Philippe said.