by Chris White
French President Emmanuel Macron made his way back to France Sunday as protesters turn the streets of Paris upside down over sky-high gas taxes designed to fight global warming.
Officials are considering declaring a state of emergency to deal with the unrest.
Macron returned from his trip in Argentina to chaos in the streets as so-called “yellow jacket” demonstrators continued protesting against taxes and Macron’s perceived indifference toward everyday citizens. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe canceled plans to attend a climate change summit in Poland.
One person died outside Paris during the weekend’s protests, bringing the number of casualties to three. More than 260 people were arrested, including 133 in Paris, according to police reports. More than 412 people were arrested nationwide.
Christophe Castaner, France’s interior minister, told reporters Sunday he would not rule out the president’s declaring a state of emergency. Macron has emergency powers that were expanded after terrorist attacks roiled the country in 2015 — it is not yet clear if he will exercised those powers.
Saturday and Sunday’s protests drew roughly 136,000 people, slightly down from the 166,000 who gathered in late November, the Interior Ministry said in a press statement. Politicians and police officials believe the situation was close to an “insurrection.”
“We are in a situation that is almost insurrectional,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far left, told reporters Sunday. “These are pages in the history of France comparable to 1968. Everything must be dealt with by having a larger perspective.”
The Yellow Jacket protesters are a mishmash of left-wing and right-wing activists upset about living conditions and high taxes.
“It’s difficult to reach the end of the month. People work and pay a lot of taxes and we are fed up,” Rabah Mendez, a protester who came from the French suburbs to protest in Paris, told The Associated Press.
Macron enacted gas tax increases to help France transition away from fossil fuels and toward green energy alternatives — the country gets 75 percent of its energy from oil and gas. But many French citizens see them as an example of the French president’s inability to understand the plight of the country’s working class.
The price of gas rose in January by 7.6 cents per liter in France and the price of diesel by 3.84 cents. To put that into perspective, 3.8 liters of fuel is equivalent to about 1 gallon of gasoline in the U.S. Europe is on the warpath against gas-powered vehicles.
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