France halting fuel tax in wake of Paris riots

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on Tuesday announced that the government would not implement a tax hike on fuel that was originally slated to begin in January.

The tax has sparked a series of national protests over nearly a monthlong span, resulting in four deaths.

“No tax is worth putting the nation’s unity in danger,” Philippe said in a live televised address.

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Pressure had mounted against the government as protesters took to the streets to denounce the tax and call for a higher minimum wage, among other demands.

Some protests have devolved into street clashes, resulting in four deaths, over 130 injuries and 412 arrests this past weekend, according to The Associated Press. 

One protest leader told the AP that the government move was a “first step” as demonstrations continued throughout the country Tuesday, with more expected in Paris this weekend.

Philippe asked for “calm” for the weekend.

“If another day of protests takes place on Saturday, it should be authorized and should take place in calm,” Philippe said in the address. “The interior minister will use all means to ensure order is respected.”

The protests began last month surrounding the tax on fuel and hikes on electricity and natural gas prices, which were also put on hold, but expanded to cover other concerns. The discord has sparked complaints that French President Emmanuel Macron, who was elected last year on a platform of government reform, and his administration are out of touch with the people.

Macron canceled a two-day trip to Serbia to deal with the crisis but has not spoken publicly about the protests since he returned last weekend from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.