What’s happening in France has gone far beyond the fuel tax increase plan. Right now, the feeling of injustice is sweeping across the streets of Paris, linking all different groups together.
<p><strong style="background-color: initial;">TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00</strong></p><p><strong>Narration:</strong> The first major U-turn by the Macron administration… On December 4, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe told a press conference that the fuel tax increase would be pushed back six months to allow for public discussion. Shortly after, US President Donald Trump tweeted, "I am glad that my friend Emmanuel Macron and the protesters in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago."<span> It is the first major setback in French president’s push to overhaul the economy. </span>His fuel-tax plan has enraged much of the nation and sparked a grass-roots protest movement against his government. French President Emmanuel Macron had repeatedly said that he would not to give in to the unrest. </p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Marine Le Pen, Leader, French "National Rally" Party: </strong><em>“If Emmanuel Macron doesn't want to be the first president in half a century to open fire on the French people then the solutions must be significant, understandable and if I may say so, immediate.”</em></p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Pierre Cannet, Member, WWF International: </strong><em>“The decision of the French prime minister to postpone the carbon tax for the next six months, freezing the tax system today, shows that the government has done things upside down, and put the cart before the horse. The carbon tax must be accompanied by a process, a process that is more consensual and as inclusive as possible. A unity that consults all stakeholders, and involves NGO's, unions, citizens, communities and territories, to make sure that the carbon tax is used to make an ecological and solidary transition.”</em></p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Yellow Vest Protester:</strong><em>“A six-month suspension is okay but in six months it will start all over again, people will not be able to get out of their difficulties and people will find themselves in the same situation of still not being able to make ends meet. We're at that point right now, and so even without the increase (in fuel tax) for six months, it will not help. More needs to be done.”</em></p><p><strong>Narration:</strong> During one of the worst street violence in Paris over the past five decades, the <em>gilets jaunes</em> or yellow vests movement has left the capital’s shopping and tourist center marked with burning cars and broken storefronts. Protesters have damaged the Arc de Triomphe, shacking Macron’s administration and the country. </p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Yellow Vest Protester:</strong><em>“The people of Europe, the people of France are being drained little by little, with taxes and all sorts. So we've had enough, it has to stop. Not too long ago we witnessed the Arab Spring, I think now we're seeing the European Winter. I'm comparing the two but I think if it unfortunately comes to that, we'' have to see it through.”</em> </p><p><strong>Narration:</strong> Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, has said, "Once we learn the costs of this destruction, I think everyone will be stunned at how huge it will be." In all, four people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes or accidents related to the protests. </p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] French Woman: </strong><em>“I think it is sad that the people, who are hungry, are forced to come to this to get heard. I think it is very very sad in a democratic society.”</em></p><p><strong>Narration:</strong> Protesters are angry over record prices at the pump, with the cost of diesel increasing by about 20 percent in the past year to an average of 1.49 euros per litre. The proposed tax would raise that even higher. In a speech to his ministers in November, Macron set the goal of making France “an environmental power of the 21st century.” Macron then announced further taxes on fuel are necessary to combat climate change and protect the environment. The plan met the anger of citizens, in particular in rural areas without public transportation. Protesters say Macron is focused on the end of the world while they are focused on the end of the month.</p><p><strong>TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00</strong></p><p><strong></strong></p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Fabien Roussel, Secretary, French Communist Party National: </strong><em>“What the French people are asking, whether they're part of the yellow vests or not, is to have more in their fridges and on their plates at the end of the month, especially for those who work. Today, we don't live decently with minimum wage. We demand the increase of minimum wage, of salaries, whether it is in the private or public sector.”</em></p><p><strong>Narration:</strong> According to a recent <a href="http://harris-interactive.fr/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2018/12/Rapport-Harris_Interactive-Sondage-RTL_M6-Manifestation_des_Gilets_Jaunes_sur_les_Champs_Elysees.pdf">Harris poll</a>, 72 percent of French people support the “yellow vests” and the vast majority of French people find Macron “arrogant,” “disconnected from the reality of French people,” and “too authoritarian.” This fall, for instance, <a href="https://www.france24.com/en/20180917-macron-france-under-fire-telling-jobseeker-cross-street-get-work-unemployment">the French president was criticized</a> for telling an out-of-work gardener who had complained how hard it was to find work that he should just try harder. </p><p>According to an Ifop-Fiducial poll, Macron approval rating has just hit a new low in the wake of the crisis, Macron's rating fell to 23 percent in the poll conducted late last week, down six points on the previous month. </p><p>Analysts say most of the "yellow vests" are workers on lower middle incomes who barely scrape by and get inadequate public services in exchange for some of the highest tax bills in Europe. </p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Bruno Le Maire, French Finance and Economy Minister:</strong> <em>“Less public spending for less taxes. This is the condition needed to put France back on the right track, this is the condition for the prosperity of all French people, this is the condition to get rid of our debt burden. Less public spending, less taxes and the sooner the better because we are measuring with this social and democratic crisis the impatience of millions of French people. Thank you.”</em></p><p><strong>Narration:</strong> Despite having no leader and clear goals, the ‘yellow vests’ movement has spread from protests over fuel tax increases to a broader uprising against Macron, who is called “president of the rich”. The movement, though apolitical in nature, has won support from everyone from far-right leader Marine Le Pen to far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon. </p><p>In the French media, the yellow-vest movement has been described as a <em>jacquerie</em>, or a “peasants’ revolt.” The term evokes centuries of divisions in French society between the social and political elite and the rest of France. </p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Andre Goretti, President, National Autonomous Union of Professional Firefighters: </strong><em>“French people in the provinces, French people who are not in the big cities, French people in general are suffering from a lack of financial means to be able to meet all their expenses and support their family.”</em></p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] French man: </strong><em>“We are sick of taxes, and we don't have freedom in this country. We can't even piss for 80 hours. These people will make us pay for everything. Ok, goodbye.”</em></p><p><strong>SOUNDBITE [French] Protester: </strong><em>“Lower the taxes, let us live, because working is great but when you have to give so much tax, you can barely live on.”</em> </p><p><strong>Narration:</strong> A recent study in the<em> Journal du Dimanche</em>, a weekly newspaper, found that Macron’s party had received more donations from the U.K.—€800,000—than from all French regions outside Paris combined. </p><p>During his presidential campaign, Emanuel Macron promised to improve the lives of French people via lower unemployment and a thriving economy. But many feel that has not happened. An analysis of the 2018-19 budget carried out by France's public policy institute found that incomes for the poorest quarter of households would largely drop or stay the same under the plans, while the greatest beneficiaries would be those who were already wealthy, in the top 1%. </p><p>What’s happening in France has gone far beyond the fuel tax increase plan. It has become a huge source of discontent that many other forces, whether political or apolitical, violent or nonviolent are eager to tap. Right now, the feeling of injustice is sweeping across the streets of Paris, linking all these groups together. </p>