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

More than 100 apartments for seniors approved in Nanaimo’s hospital area

Development permit issued for 1125 Seafield Cres.

Outreach team making connections with young people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre youth advisory council initiative offers ‘no-barrier’ help downtown

Alzheimer’s society offering online support for caregivers in Nanaimo

Webinars explore ‘mindfulness’ in caring for dementia patients

Shopping resumes aboard Nanaimo ferry sailings

B.C. Ferries reopens gift shops on Queen of Cowichan and Queen of Oak Bay

City of Nanaimo reports on its salaries, expenses and payments

Municipality files statement of financial information with B.C. government

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Nanaimo RCMP want speeding motorists to ‘slow the blazes down’

Police raise alarm after seeing 400-per cent rise in excessive speeding tickets last month

City of Nanaimo takes inventory of its land for official community plan review

Report recommends high-density residential development, identifies shortage of industrial land

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIU faculty members looking at COVID-19 impacts on communities

Vancouver Island University’s research award committee funds nine projects

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Most Read