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France braces for another round of ‘yellow vest’ protests
France is bracing for another round of protests by the ‘yellow vest’ movement on Saturday with thousands expected to descend on the Champs Elysees in the heart of the French capital.
Authorities have closed the famed avenue for traffic in order to avoid a repeat of last week’s demonstration that was marred by burning barricades and vandalism.
The government said protesters will be searched by police before being allowed onto the avenue.
The protests, which were due around the country for a third straight Saturday, are mainly aimed against the soaring diesel prices due to government's decision to increase fuel taxes.
But the protesters also want to draw attention to the growing division between the rich and the poor and the disadvantages faced by regional areas of France when it comes to accessing public services such as schools and transport.
The protesters have been most active in small urban and rural areas where it has blocked roads and closed highway toll booths.
No retreat on policy
Two people have died and hundreds have been injured in the protests so far.
Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he understood “the legitimate anger, the impatience and the suffering of some people” and called for more time to organise consultations on how to transform France into a low-carbon economy without penalising the poor.
But he also emphasised that any measures announced “in the coming weeks and months” would “never be a retreat” on policy.
Negotiation talks fail
On Friday, the government invited representatives of the movement for talks with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe inviting eight ‘representatives’ to join him in his office.
But only two turned up, and one walked out after being told he could not invite TV cameras in to broadcast the encounter live to the nation.
Following an hour-long meeting with the second representative, Philippe said the pair had mainly discussed spending power and that his door “will always remain open” for further dialogue.
Trade union leaders, who also met Philippe on Friday, have called for a moratorium on January's fuel tax hike.
The protests have also spread to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.