French government urges unity in face of mass protests

A demonstrators holds a flare during a demonstration of Yellow Vests against the rising of the fuel and oil prices

The backpedaling by President Emmanuel Macron's government appeared created to calm the nation three days after the worst unrest on the streets of Paris in decades.

"'We want Trump' being chanted through the streets of Paris", said conservative student activist Charlie Kirk in a tweet relayed by the president to his more than 56 million Twitter followers.

But demonstrations continued around the country.

Following the worst anti-government riots in Paris since 2005, French President Emmanuel Macron has now canceled the fuel tax hike entirely.

Whether or not the cancellation of the fuel tax will end the protests is unclear as members of the movement have already called for a "fourth act" to take place on Saturday.

Seven people died and hundreds were severely injured.

"This anger, you would have to be deaf and blind not to see it, nor hear it", Philippe said after more than a fortnight of demonstrations by so-called "yellow vest" protesters. They put up a sign by the side of the road reading "Macron dictator".

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French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe speaks during an emergency debate in France's National Assembly over the fuel protests in Paris.

In the nearby port city of Marseille, students clashed with police outside a high school.

But his office confirmed he had told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that he stood by his decision to cut a "fortune tax" previously levied on high-earners which has infuriated many protesters.

"When you leave things to fester too long, it costs more", Jean-Francois Amadieu, a sociologist at Paris 1 University, told AFP.

Further protests had been anticipated for the coming weekend with some politicians calling for more security measures.

It may not sound like much, but the proposal filled the streets with protesters in yellow jackets for three weeks. Shops were looted and cars torched in plush neighbourhoods around the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue.

The movement does not seem to be led by a known labor leader or opposition politician.

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"No tax is worth putting the nation's unity in danger", Philippe said in a live televised address.

She said each of the disparate protesting groups will decide what to do next, but many will probably keep protesting.

Planned tax increases on petrol and diesel on January 1 will be suspended for six months, while hikes in regulated electricity and gas prices will be frozen during the winter.

Media captionFrance fuel protests: Who are the people in the yellow vests? "The interior minister will use all means to ensure order is respected".

Paris police said 412 people were arrested during the clashes in Paris on Saturday and 363 remained in custody, according to the latest figures. The tax increase has been described as an effort to move France further to renewable energy sources.

"If not there will be chaos", said Christophe Chalencon, a 52-year-old blacksmith from southern France.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted that the delay in price rises was "obviously not up to the expectations of the French people struggling with precariousness", and noted sarcastically that it is "surely a coincidence" that the price hikes will now come into effect a few days after European Union elections.

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