Paris and other large cities in France are bracing for violence this weekend. "Yellow vest" protesters promise to be out in force, and police promise to be there to meet them. One potential sign of good news: Representatives of the protesters will meet with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe Friday night. "Our message is that we are listening to them," says a government spokesman. A look at what the protests are about, and the mounting criticism on President Emmanuel Macron:
- The start: The original protests were over a fuel tax increase, part of a plan to steer France toward cleaner energy. Macron has since scrapped the tax hike in the wake of the protests in the first big about-face of his presidency, notes Reuters. But the protests have gone way beyond that single issue at this point.
- Much bigger: "This is now about so much more than fuel tax," one of the protesters, a 41-year-old single mom, tells the Guardian. "We seem to live in a world gone mad where the rich pay next to nothing and the poor are constantly taxed." The newspaper sums up the complaints: Macron presents himself as a progressive to the world, but at home, he defends the old guard and is seen as "an arrogant, would-be monarch." Protesters now want reform on a wide range of cost-of-living issues.
- A pattern: The fuel tax "was the latest of several reforms proposed by Macron that would disproportionately affect France's least well-off, including abolishing a wealth tax, making it easier for companies to hire and fire employees, and fighting unions," per the Washington Post.