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Fresh clashes in French fuel price protests

Protesters face riot police as they block the A10 motorway in Virsac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France, on November 18, 2018, on a second day of demonstrations.

[PARIS] Fresh clashes on Sunday by "yellow vest" fuel price protestors 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, protestors again clashed with police - and sometimes motorists.

Sunday'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 protestor seriously injured.

And police used tear gas to break up a gathering of about a thousand protestors near the northern city of Caen, after vandalism of traffic radar and the burning of wooden pallets.

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Earlier Sunday, Interior Minister Christophe 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 Mr 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.

Mr 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," Mr 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 Sunday the government was 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 Sunday in the Journal de Dimanche weekly said that 62 per cent 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 TV Sunday 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 on Sunday charged with manslaughter before being released on conditional bail, prosecutors said.

The protesters are nicknamed "yellow vests" for the high-visibility jackets they wear.

A separate poll published in the Journal du Dimanche meanwhile indicated that Mr Macron's popularity had dipped a further four points to 25 per cent.

The survey was conducted November 9-17 with 1,957 respondents.


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