In his first public comments in more than a week, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that his administration will show "no mercy" towards "Yellow Vest" protesters who have committed violence over the last four weeks of demonstrations across the country, while also announcing a series of economic measures in an attempt to restore calm.
"When violence is unleashed, freedom ends," said Macron - while acknowledging that there is a "deep anger" at the French government that is justified - yet which should not devolve into violence. Macron added that he shares some responsibility for the situation - which began as a climate change-linked fuel tax and quickly transformed into a general anti-government protest.
To combat future violence, Macron will use "all means' to restore calm, and has called for an "economic and social state of emergency," according to AP.
Macron - whose approval rating is at an all time low, says he has asked his government to increase wages by 100 euros per month beginning in January as part of a series of new measures to be released in detail on Tuesday. He also announced that overtime hours won't be subject to payroll tax, and that his administration will scrap a tax hike on poor and low-income retirees. Furthermore, Mcron asked companies to pay end-of-year bonuses which won't be taxed, and will suspend a CSG levy on pensions below 2,000 euros per month.
Macron also said that immigration "must be debated" as well, as anti-immigrant sentiment has spread throughout Europe.
This weekend marked "Act IV" of the Yellow Vest protests, during which a staggering 1,939 people were arrested on Saturday across France - 1082 of them in Paris alone, including 52 women and 95 minors, while 264 people were injured in the anti-government protests which have seen widespread looting and violence. Most of the suspects were arrested for "acts of violence against a person in the custody of the public authority" , "possession of explosive products," or "carrying weapons," according to BFMTV.