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The first signs of social unrest emerged in late October, shortly after the announcement of a new tax on diesel fuel. The tax is part of President Emmanuel Macron’s big plan to tackle climate change. For French people living in rural and peripheral areas of the country, people who depend on their car to live and work, this tax was the last straw in a series of fiscal policies seen as unjust and favoring the upper classes. In response, fed-up citizens organized blockades on roads, roundabouts and highway tolls around the country.
They want a more equal political and fiscal system, including the reintroduction of the tax on the mega-rich (from 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent, starting from incomes worth more than €800,000), which Macron abolished after his election. Crucially, they want Macron, also known as the “president of the rich,” gone.
Indignation about the government’s response shot up even further after the arrest of 153 teenagers at a high school in Mantes-La-Jolie, near Paris, on December 6. The youth were forced to kneel down, hands on their heads, in a humiliating posture, as police officers filmed and commented, “What a well-behaved class.” They were also detained without a lawyer, which is illegal for minors in France. The scene has since been reenacted by high school protesters around the country.