CBS/AP November 24, 2018, 8:00 AM Police fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters in Paris
PARIS — French police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in Paris on Saturday as thousands gathered in the capital and staged road blockades across the nation to vent anger against rising fuel taxes and Emmanuel Macron's presidency.
Thousands of police were deployed nationwide to contain the demonstrations, including a tense protest at the foot of the Champs-Elysees, where protesters wielded placards reading "Death to Taxes" and upturned a large vehicle. No one was injured in the clashes, but six were arrested for "throwing projectiles," Paris Police said.
"It's going to trigger a civil war and me, like most other citizens, we're all ready," said Benjamin Vrignaud, a 21-year-old protester from Chartres.
Five thousand protesters flooded the Champs-Elysees alone, with 23,000 protesters in total nationwide, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
The famed avenue was speckled from the early morning in neon, owing to the color of the vests the myriad self-styled "yellow jacket" protesters don. French drivers are required to keep neon security vests in their vehicles, and now, the vests have become a sort of uniform for the movement against higher fuel costs, BBC News reported.
Demonstrators faced metal barriers and a perimeter enforced by police that sought to stop them from getting to buildings such as the prime minister's official residence, the BBC reported.
Last weekend, about 280,000 people took part in demonstrations at over 2,000 locations across France. Two people died, more than 600 were injured and at least 50 were arrested, according to the BBC.
Authorities are struggling because the movement has no clear leader and has attracted a motley group of people with broadly varying demands.
The unrest is proving a major challenge for embattled Macron, who's suffering in the polls and is the focus of rage for the demonstrators, who accuse the pro-business centrist of indifference to the struggles of ordinary French.
Macron has insisted that the fuel tax rises are a necessary pain to reduce France's dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy investments, which is a cornerstone of his reforms of the nation. He will defend fresh plans to make the "energy transition" easier on Tuesday.