A man walks his dog past a tag reading : Happy Christmas Manu, referring to French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Macron addresses France amid protests; is it too late?

Paris monuments reopened, cleanup workers cleared debris and shop owners tried to put the city on its feet again Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron is at last preparing to speak to the nation Monday, after increasingly violent and radicalized protests against his leadership and a long silence that aggravated the anger. Many protesters only want one thing: for him to declare “I quit.”

That’s an unlikely prospect. Instead Macron is expected to announce a series of measures to reduce taxes and boost purchasing power for the masses who feel his presidency has favoured the rich. He’s being forced to act after four weeks of “yellow vest” protests that started in struggling provinces and spread to rioting in the capital that has scared tourists and foreign investors and shaken France to the core.

Macron met Monday morning in his presidential palace with local and national politicians, unions and business leaders to hear their concerns. In the evening, he will give a national televised address, his first public words in more than a week.

The morning meeting stretched past lunch and into the afternoon. A presidential official said there were 37 people around the table with the president, describing how the movement is impacting their sectors, including unions, small businesses and local government.

Among steps the government is considering are abolishing taxes on overtime, speeding up tax cuts and an end-of-year bonus for low-income workers. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday the government could delay some payroll taxes, but expressed resistance to restoring the wealth tax or lowering taxes for retirees, among protesters’ demands. He stressed that the measures should focus on helping the working classes.

“We are ready to make any gesture” that works, he said on RTL radio. “What is important now is to put an end to the crisis and find peace and unity in the country again.”

Fallout from the protests so far could cost France 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product in the last quarter of the year, Le Maire warned. “That means fewer jobs, it means less prosperity for the whole country,” he said.

Read more: France bracing for more protests despite retreat on taxes

Read more: Eiffel Tower to be closed as Paris braces for more protests

The “yellow vest” protests began as a movement against a rise in fuel taxes that Macron eventually abandoned, but have mushroomed to include a plethora of sometimes contradictory demands — increasingly including Macron’s resignation.

“Macron is there for the rich, not for all the French,” 68-year-old retiree Jean-Pierre Meunuer said at Saturday’s protests in Paris.

Some members of the movement are already planning new action next Saturday, amid calls from police officers exhausted by four weekends of rioting for the payment of overtime work instead of bonuses.

“The State should commit itself to the payment of overtime,” the UNSA police union said in a statement on Monday. “These extra hours should be exempted from tax. Night hours should be revalued. UNSA police officials will listen carefully to the president’s announcements.”

Graffiti throughout the French capital singles Macron out for criticism, reflecting a national sense that the 40-year-old centrist former banker is arrogant and out of touch. Macron however has appeared determined to continue his course, and no presidential or parliamentary elections are planned until 2022.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux warned Sunday that a “magic wand” won’t solve all the problems of the protesters.

Paris tourist sites reopened Sunday, while workers cleaned up debris from protests that left widespread damage in the capital and elsewhere. At least 71 people were injured in Paris on Saturday, fewer than the week before but still a stunning figure. French media reported 136,000 protesters nationwide on Saturday, similar to the previous week.

Nearly 1,000 people were being held in custody after the Saturday protests in the French capital.

___

Sylvie Corbet, Elaine Ganley and Samuel Petrequin contributed.

Angela Charlton, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blackberry festival moves forward with drive-thru in Metchosin

Event takes place on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sidney council signals support for recreational cannabis store

A 6-1 vote sends application forward for final approval from province

Oak Bay High students do their best for COVID-19 Tour de Rock

Tour de Rock riders make socially responsible visit Friday

Worklink march in Langford supports Orange Shirt Day

Ahousaht Prayer Song sets the tone

No ‘harmonious solution’ dogs on beaches in Saanich, community-led study finds

Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association present findings to council Sept. 28

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

First Nations Health Authority chief medical officer concerned with rising COVID-19 cases

“There’s still so much we don’t know and we’re learning everyday about this particular virus.”

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Most Read