Macron's popularity edges up even as protesters persist

Tanya Simon
January 10, 2019

"I was tear-gassed, with my friend and my wife, and at a certain point the anger just rose up inside me", said the 2007 and 2008 champion of France's light heavyweight division.

The images filmed on Saturday show a heavily built man in a black duffel coat square up to several police officers before knocking them down in a hail of punches and kicking them on the ground.

He admitted he "acted badly" after witnessing brutality against demonstrators.

Speaking in a video uploaded to Facebook, an activist known only as Tahz San said the gesture aimed to "scare this (French) state completely legally and without any violence, yet more effectively than ever expected" throughout the history of the Gilet Jaunes movement.

Officials were outraged the page had been set up, saying it was tantamount to legitimising anti-police violence.

Guillaume Kasbarian, a member of Mr Macron's parliamentary majority, tweeted that the crowdfunding was a "moral wreck", shameful at a time when associations struggle to raise money for "more exemplary and humanistic" projects.

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Seven weeks into an anti-government rebellion marked by weekly clashes in Paris and other French cities, Philippe said the government would back a "new law punishing those who do not respect the requirement to declare (protests), those who take part in unauthorized demonstrations and those who arrive at demonstrations wearing face masks".

However, more than two thirds of the 1,014 people interviewed still thought the ex-investment banker's economic policy was not good, and only 19 percent believed he understood voters' concerns. Ten people have died in incidents at or near roadblocks set up by protesters. Other measures would allow job cuts among civil servants.

But numerous protesters say the measures are not enough and that rural France is paying the price for Macron's policies, which they see as mainly profiting a wealthy Parisian elite.

Luigi Di Maio, the Italian deputy prime minister and leader of the 5-Star Movement (M5S), likened the French "yellow vests" to his own political movement. "I have the anger of the people in me ... it's always the little people who pay". Di Maio wrote in a post on his party's blog.

Sébastien Chenu, an MP for Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party, said that the donations were "a barometer of the hatred for the government" before adding that he condemned all violence. The new law would ban troublemakers-who Philippe called "casseurs", or thugs-from protests and crack down on people at demonstrations who hide their faces with masks.

"At the beginning, we had to endure the teasing of old politicians and the fierce media attacks", he said.

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