One person was killed in southeastern France on Saturday after being hit by a car while protesting the government’s plan to increase fuel taxes, according to national media.
France’s Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner said nearly 125,000 people were protesting at around 2,000 rallies across France as part of the so-called “yellow vests” movement, Le Monde reports.
The protests are the latest show of discontent among largely working class populations that French President Emmanuel Macron’s policies favor the metropolitan elite over their interests.
The protest of around 40 people in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, where the person was killed, had not been declared to police, according to Le Monde. Castaner said a female driver panicked and accelerated after protestors tapped on her car, and she ran over a protestor.
“The right to protest is essential in this country, it must be protected, but it is also necessary to ensure that the minimal organization of the event avoids this type of tragedy,” Castaner said, according to Le Figaro.
Around 47 people people have been injured, three of them seriously, after being hit by cars in other locations, with multiple arrests. The authorities have raised their level of alert to “maximum,” Castaner said.
The nationwide gilets jaunes protests, named after the high-visibility vests that drivers are required to keep in their cars, were spurred by Macron’s decision to increase diesel and petrol taxes in a bid to cut pollution and combat climate change.
The decision launched a backlash particularly among suburban and rural residents dependent on cars for transportation.
A poll from the Elabe Institute released this week found 73 percent of the French public supported the protestors.
While the government has stood by its tax plan, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Wednesday outlined a €500 million plan to help motorists with the lowest incomes in an attempt to ease social tensions.