Scattered tax protests persist in France; injuries up to 409

PARIS — Holdouts refusing to end protests of fuel tax hikes continued to slow traffic around France as the number of injuries from the weekend demonstrations climbed to at least 409 — 14 of them serious, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Sunday.

Grassroots protesters, dubbing themselves “yellow jackets” for the safety jackets French motorists are required to keep in vehicles for emergencies, paralyzed traffic by blocking roads around the country Saturday. Blockades were counted at 150 scattered locations Sunday, Castaner told RTL radio.

The situation throughout the night was “agitated,” he said, with “aggressions, fights, knife-slashing” taking place, including among the protesters. He said 157 people were detained for questioning — double the number reported Saturday night.

The original target of the protests, tax increases on diesel fuel and gasoline, expanded to include French citizens’ decreased buying power and complaints about the policies of President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron hasn’t commented on the weekend protests. In a departure from the norm, they weren’t led by unions and politicians were shunned, although some figures on the right and far-right joined the roadblocks.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was to address the issue on French TV on Sunday evening.

“I don’t think silence is the right answer,” said Troyes Mayor Francois Baroin, a former mainstream right minister and senator. The Troyes prefecture was invaded and damaged by protesters on Saturday.

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“It’s a very powerful message sent from the depths of France,” he said on BFMTV.

Meanwhile, French media reported Sunday that a driver who accelerated in a panic at a roadblock Saturday in the eastern Savoie region, striking and killing a protester, was handed preliminary manslaughter charges.

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