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Macron to hold crisis meeting over ‘yellow vest’ protests

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Macron to hold crisis meeting over ‘yellow vest’ protests

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron will hold talks with business leaders and trade unions on Monday after a fourth weekend of the violent “gilets jaunes,” or “yellow vest” nationwide protests that have challenged his grip on power.

Macron, who will also meet political leaders and local officials, wants to “hear their voices, their proposals and with the aim of mobilising them to act”, CNN quoted a spokeswoman for the Elysee Palace as saying on Sunday.

Le Figaro newspaper said that Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and nine government ministers will also be present at Macron’s meeting.

The meetings will come ahead of Macron’s address to the nation which is expected to centre around national unity.

Macron is anticipated to urge the “gilets jaunes,” or “yellow vest” protesters to seek dialogue after a weekend in which 1,723 people were taken in for questioning and 1,220 were taken into custody, according to the Interior Ministry.

Across the country, 135 people were reported injured.

Macron is facing criticism with demonstrators marching against the rise of living costs, the scrapping of the “fortune tax” and accusations that the former banker has done little to address the inequality in French society.

Further pressure grew over the weekend with police firing rubber bullets and hundreds of canisters of tear gas at the demonstrators, some of whom set vehicles on fire during Saturday’s protests.

The protests, which have stretched as far and wide as the southern cities of Marseille and Toulouse, brought out 136,000 people across the country on Saturday, police said.

About 8,000 police were on the streets of Paris and tens of thousands more deployed across the country.

Paris landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre have been closed to the public, some metro stations were shut and sporting events across the country have been called off, CNN said.

Originally a grassroots movement, the “gilets jaunes” first emerged online with Facebook events set up by citizens mostly from deprived rural areas.

They began by coordinating road blockades across France to protest the fuel tax hike but the protests have since mushroomed into a broader demonstration of anger against Macron.

An opinion poll on Friday suggested a dip in support for the protests, but it still stood at 66 per cent.
Meanwhile, President Macron’s ratings have fallen to 23% amid the crisis, polls suggest.

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