French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart following their meeting at the Elysee palace on June 12, 2017 in Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron's party is on course for an overwhelming parliamentary majority, after the June 11, 2017 first round of voting for the National Assembly left traditional parties in disarray. / AFP PHOTO / Lionel BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

Paris protest: Macron to address nation

President Emmanuel Macron  will address the nation on the “yellow vest” crisis and meet trade unionists and business leaders in search of a way to end the protests that have rocked France.

The president will speak to the French people at 19:00 GMT on Monday, the Elysee office announced – his first public comments after four weeks of nationwide anti-government demonstrations which again turned violent on Saturday in Paris and other cities. 

Government officials have said the 40-year-old centrist would announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to protesters’ grievances.

Calls have multiplied across the political spectrum for drastic action, with former far-right presidential rival Marine Le Pen urging Macron to “recognise society’s suffering and deliver immediate, very strong responses”.

“It is clear that we underestimated people’s need to make themselves heard,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

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Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the weeks of unrest were an “economic catastrophe” for France, causing havoc on the roads and putting off shoppers and tourists in the run-up to Christmas.

The “yellow vests”, clad in the luminous safety jackets carried by law in all French cars, began staging nationwide roadblocks on November 17 in protest against tax hikes raising the price of fuel.

Their demonstrations have since snowballed into a mass movement against ex-banker Macron, whom protesters accuse of being out of touch with ordinary French people.

Looting and rioting, blamed mostly on far-left and far-right agitators, has repeatedly broken out in Paris, spreading to Bordeaux, Toulouse, and other cities.  

Authorities said the property damage caused in the capital on Saturday was far worse than a week earlier, with burned-out cars and broken glass left strewn across several neighbourhoods.

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Some 10,000 protesters had taken to Paris’ streets, where about 8,000 police were deployed.

Security forces launched a massive operation in a bid to minimise the unrest, detaining more than 1,000 people and mobilising armoured cars in Paris for the first time.

But he announced a climbdown on the hated fuel tax rise last week and further concessions appear to be on the cards.

So far, Macron has refused to back down on another policy that is deeply unpopular among the “yellow vests”: his decision to scrap a tax on assets for France’s richest.

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud on Sunday also rejected the idea of an increase in the minimum wage – a demand from many protesters who say they are barely scraping by.

“We know that destroys jobs,” Penicaud said.

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“If we raise all salaries automatically, many businesses would just go bust – or they would have to raise their prices, and no one would pay for their services.”

With an estimated 136,000 people taking part nationwide last weekend, the protests have shown little sign of easing since they began.

The protesters overwhelmingly hail from rural and small-town France but have a range of different goals – from lower taxes to Macron’s resignation – making his attempted negotiations with them all the more difficult.