France declares emergency amid ‘yellow vest’ protests

Emmanuel Macron will speak to the French people at 8:00 pm, his office announced

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As France still struggles to get a grip on the massive protests that have been raging through the country for weeks, President Emmanuel Macron has admitted that the country is in a state of “economic emergency.”

The announcement, delivered in a brief televised address, came as Macron faced the most significant crisis of his young presidency: the so-called yellow vest movement, a popular uprising that began as a reaction to a carbon tax that the president had put in place but that quickly became a revolt against Macron himself, who is widely perceived as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

Macron, who is often criticized for allegedly only serving the interests of the rich in France, also announced that he ordered the prime minister to develop proposals that would allow “enterprises and the richest members of our society to contribute” to the program of the national economy support, yet he refused to reinforce the so-called “wealth tax.”

Macron scrapped the Solidarity Tax on Wealth (ISF) that forced all French households with assets of over €1.3 million ($1.48mn) to pay an additional percentage in 2017, provoking a wave of criticism from the public and the opposition politicians. French MP and the left-wing ‘Unbowed France’ Party leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon dubbed Macron a “President for the Rich.” In his Monday, speech, Macron still defended his stance on the issue by saying that the wealth tax “did not really help” France.

We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns,” Macron said.

The people, however, did not quite believe the bright future Macron painted in his speech as many called such measures populist while arguing that they would not bring any real changes or would even make the situation worse.

“For 13 minutes, Macron distributed money without announcing any economic [reforms],” one person wrote on Twitter, calling such approach “irresponsible.” Others insisted that a “reform of the institutions” and more public control over the government expenses is what is in fact needed.

The movement has spread beyond France’s borders, with around 400 arrested at a “yellow vest” event in Brussels on Saturday and peaceful demonstrations taking place in Dutch towns.

In France, authorities have also launched an investigation into social media activity from accounts allegedly drumming up support for the protests, sources told.

According to Britain’s Times newspaper, hundreds of online accounts linked to Russia were used to stoke the demonstrations.

Citing analysis by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company, the Times said the accounts spread disinformation and used pictures of injured protesters from other events to enhance a narrative of brutality by French authorities.

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