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Woman killed in French 'yellow-vest' blockades

November 17, 2018

A woman taking part in protests against rising fuel prices in France has died after being hit by a car. The incident took place as activists angered by the government's tax hikes blocked motorways across the country.

Protesters in high-visibility vests block roads in France
Protesters in high-visibility vests block roads in FranceImage: Reuters/S. Mahe

A motorist hit and killed a protester in southeastern France during Saturday's nationwide demonstrations against rising fuel prices, France's interior minister said. More than 400 people were injured, 14 of them seriously, while police made over 150 arrests. 

The "yellow-vest" movement called for activists wearing high-visibility jackets to block motorway exits, fuel depots and roundabouts in hundreds of events planned across France. 

In the southeastern town of Pont-de-Beauvoisin, a female driver panicked when she saw protesters barring the road and accelerated, hitting and killing a woman in her 50s, Interior Minister Christophe Castener said.

Read more:Paris to ban combustion-engine cars by 2030

Police stand in the road during a yellow vest demonstration in France
Police were deployed to ensure no roads were completely blocked during the protestsImage: Getty Images7AFP/S. de Sakutin

Nationwide campaign

Castener told broadcaster RTL that around 288,000 people had taken part in the backlash against President Emmanuel Macron's fuel tax hikes at more than 2,000 locations.

The minister added that some activists continued their protest late into the night.

"Last night was restive... There were assaults, fights, stabbings," Castaner said. "There were fights among 'yellow vest' protesters. There was a lot of alcohol at certain venues, which led to this idiotic behavior." 

The yellow vests are symbolic: they are required be kept inside all French vehicles in case the driver experiences difficulties. 

Police were deployed across the country to keep some roadways clear. Footage posted on social media on Saturday evening showed officers dismantling obstructions.  

While the "yellow-vest" movement's main focus is rising petrol and diesel tax, it has also attracted voters who are dissatisfied more generally with Macron's economic reforms.

Opposition parties and labor unions lent their backing to the protests, but were reluctant to join the blockades, citing the involvement of the far-right National Rally (Rassemblement National), previously the Front National.  

Read moreFrench farmers picket Total refineries in palm oil protests

France's Economic Reforms attract critics from all sides

In Paris, hundreds of protesters yelling "Macron resign!" and singing the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, massed on the Champs Elysees and the Place de la Concorde, hoping to march toward the Elysee Palace, Macron's official residence.

Macron has rejected calls to scrap further tax rises in 2019. But, in an attempt to assuage protesters' concerns, the government last week announced it would offer energy subsidies and a grant of €4,000 ($4,600) for poorer families to replace older, less fuel-efficient vehicles.

The tax increases are part of an effort to move away from a reliance on fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

kw,nm/amp (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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