Cars on fire. Police fighting protesters. Tear gas everywhere. Welcome to France.
The images coming out of France right now show devastation, violence, and a nation in the throes of unrest.
The country is currently experiencing widespread protests and riots that have led to massive clashes with police. Over the past three weeks, four people have died, hundreds have been injured, and thousands of dollars’ worth of property has been damaged.
The protests started around November 17 when French drivers sporting yellow vests led a demonstration of 280,000 people across the country to push back against rising taxes on gas and diesel. French President Emmanuel Macron, as part of his many economic reforms, announced the gas taxes earlier this year to minimize France’s reliance on fossil fuels.
The tax will increase the price of fuel by about 30 cents per gallon and will continue to rise over the next few years, the French government says. Gas already costs about $7.06 per gallon in France.
The protest movement — now known as gilets jaunes, or “yellow vests” — has blockaded streets and highways, burned cars, and brawled with police in response to the price hike. The riots in Paris last weekend are the largest the city has seen in nearly five decades.
This public discontent and anger is the greatest threat to Macron’s young presidency yet — in part because demonstrators also target his leadership — and threatens to tear a divided country even further apart.
Hundreds of thousands of people are protesting Macron’s fuel tax and general leadership in Paris and across the country