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Clashes on second day of French fuel protest

Fresh clashes yesterday in the “yellow vest” fuel price protests across France led to more injuries to add to the more than 400 already reported by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
Although the protests appeared to be less widespread than those seen at the 87 locations tallied by the interior ministry overnight, protesters again clashed with police – and sometimes motorists.
Yesterday’s protests touched several regions across France, but their intensity appeared to be diminishing, according to AFP journalists.
Police were searching for a motorist who forced a road block at Saint-Quentin, northeast France, leaving one protester seriously injured.
And police used tear gas to break up a gathering of about a thousand protesters near the northern city of Caen, after vandalism of traffic radar and the burning of wooden pallets.
Earlier, Interior Minister Castaner reported that the first day and night of protests had left one person dead and more than 400 people hurt, 14 seriously.
The injury toll followed what Castaner described as a “restive” night in 87 locations around the country, where protesters had blocked roads to express their anger at a series of hikes in petrol tax.
The injured, 409 in total, included 28 police, paramilitary police or firefighters.
French retail group Auchan reported violent incidents at around 20 shopping centres where it operates hypermarkets.
Castaner told RTL radio that 288,000 people had taken part in Saturday’s protests at 2,034 locations countrywide.
About 3,500 stayed out overnight, he added.
Police questioned 282 protesters in total, 73 during the night, of whom 157 were taken into custody.
“Last night was restive … there were assaults, fights, stabbings,” Castaner said. 
“There were fights among ‘yellow vest’ protesters. There was a lot of alcohol at certain venues, which led to this idiotic behaviour.”
Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin said yesterday that the government is aware of unhappiness over high fuel taxes, but said it had “a duty” to transform the French economy with the aim of making it less oil-dependent.
A poll published yesterday in the Journal de Dimanche weekly said that 62% of those questioned believed their purchasing power was more important than a fast transition towards renewable energy.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was to appear on national television later in the evening to discuss the protests.
On Saturday, groups blocked roundabouts, major highways and thoroughfares to express anger over increased taxes on fuel and their shrinking purchasing power under President Emmanuel Macron.
Tempers flared at times as some drivers confronted the protesters or tried to force their way through the barricades.
In the eastern Savoie region, authorities said a woman trying to get her daughter to a doctor panicked after protesters surrounded her car and banged on the roof.
She accelerated into the crowd and killed a 63-year-old woman.
The driver was charged yesterday with manslaughter before being released on conditional bail, prosecutors said.
The protesters are nicknamed “yellow vests” for the high-visibility jackets they wear.

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